Russian Rocket Crashes and Explodes, Spilling Fuel

BY Jenny Marder  July 2, 2013 at 2:07 PM EST

A Russian Proton-M rocket crashes seconds after launch on Tuesday. Video by Rossiya 24.

A Russian rocket carrying three navigation satellites careened off its flight path, burst into flames and crashed just seconds after liftoff from a launch pad in Kazakhstan late Monday, spilling a highly toxic rocket propellant. The crash occurred 17 seconds into the flight. Some news reports, such as this Space.com post are reporting that it was likely caused by an emergency shutdown of the rocket’s booster engines.

Footage from the Moscow-based news channel Rossiya-24 shows the Proton-M booster rocket pitching into a horizontal position, falling dramatically back toward Earth as a ball of fire and then crashing, enveloping the launch pad in an immense plume of black and orange smoke. No casualties were reported, but it’s still unclear whether the toxic cloud blanketing the launch pad poses potential danger to surrounding areas.

The Rossiya

In the meantime, Russian authorities have asked the 70,000 residents in the neighboring town of Baikonur to “stay indoors and refrain from using air conditioners,” the New York Times reports.

You can also view the launch, crash and spectacular explosion in this video captured by a witness here:

The rocket was reportedly carrying 600 tons of rocket fuel, comprised of heptyl, kerosene and other propellants, which were spilled when the booster was destroyed, Russian news service Ria Novosti reported. This marks the fourth failure of a Proton-M rocket in three years. The satellites on board are called GLONASS, an acronym for Global Navigation Satellite System in Russian, and were worth an estimated $200 billion.



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Rebecca Jacobson and Patti Parson contributed to this report.