Moscow: An unmanned Russian carrier rocket supposed to take three Russian Glonass-M navigation satellites into space exploded just after it was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the early hours on Tuesday. The estimated loss from the three satellites, meant for the GLONASS satellite navigation system, was about $200 million, a Russian news channel reported.
“A rocket carrier fell to the ground and exploded on the territory of the cosmodrome.”, the state agency said in a statement. The rocket fell on the territory of the Baikonur cosmodrome which Russia leases from ex-Soviet Kazakhstan. Experts believe that the explosion released 600 tonnes of highly toxic fuel into the air. Kazakh officials said the fumes may present a danger to the local population.
According to preliminary information, the accident was caused by a malfunction of a first-stage engine, Vladimir Bozhko, Head of the Emergencies Ministry in Kazakhstan, was quoted as saying.
The crash is the latest in a series of major setbacks suffered by Russia in its space programme, notably losing expensive satellites and an unmanned supply ship to the International Space Station.
The crash will further damage the reputation of Russia”s once-pioneering space programme, cause delays in launches and threaten its hold on some 40% of the market for space launches.
Source: Space Travel