A Russian Proton-M rocket, carrying three GLONASS navigation satellites into orbit, crashed and exploded just after launch early Tuesday morning.
The Proton-M rocket ran into trouble within moments of lifting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, first veering off course, then attempting to correct the error, but ultimately flipping over, breaking up, bursting into flames and exploding on impact.
According to RussianSpaceWeb.com:
Since the emergency cutoff of the first stage engines is blocked during the first 42 seconds of the flight to ensure that the rocket clears the launch complex, the vehicle continued flying with its propulsion system firing practically until the impact on the ground.
The rocket crashed about one kilometre from the launch pad, with debris landing near the International Launch Services pad used for joint US/Russian commercial launches. No injuries were reported in the crash, although the possibility of toxic contamination from the rocket fuel had local officials considering evacuation of the local population.
In Russia's long history of space launches with the Proton rocket, this is only the second failure to crash on the launch site. The first was over 44 years ago, on April 2nd, 1969, during the launch of what was intended to be the first Mars orbiter, Mars 2M No.522 (or Mars M-69 No.522). Coincidentally, both failed launches happened on the same pad.
However, this is the second attempt at this particular launch, which was delayed from May 2012. Also, this is the second launch to be lost during an attempt to use a modified upper-stage of the rocket. The first was in December 2010, when a human error during fueling caused the upper stage, with its satellite cargo, to crash into the Pacific Ocean.
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This accident will mean delays in upcoming launches, as officials investigate the reason for the crash. The next launch was scheduled for later this month, which would have delivered an ASTRA-2E satellite into orbit for the satellite communications company SES.
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