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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Three GLONASS satellites lost in Russian launch failure

A Russian Proton-M rocket carrying three GLONASS navigation satellites crashed about 17 seconds after liftoff today from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, reports (Russia Today) and

About ten seconds after takeoff at 02:38 GMT, the rocket swerved, began to correct, but then veered in the opposite direction. It then flew horizontally and started to come apart with its engines in full thrust. Making an arc in the air, the rocket plummeted to Earth and exploded on impact close to another launch pad used for Proton commercial launches.

The crash was broadcast live across Russia. Fears of a possible toxic fuel leak immediately surfaced following the incident, but no such leak has been confirmed, reports. The rocket was initially carrying more than 600 tons of toxic propellants.

No casualties or damage to surroundings structures or the town of Baikonur have been reported.

An accident board headed by Aleksandr Lopatin, deputy head of Russia’s space agency Roskosmos, has been created to investigate the crash. Further Proton-M launches have been suspended until the end of the accident investigation.

The failed launch has potentially cost the Russian Space industry around $200M.