Dramatic video footage broadcast by Russian TV an unmanned Russian Proton-M rocket has crashed just seconds after its launch from the Russian Baikonur facility in Kazakhstan.
Russian Proton-M rocket breaks up before exploding into a fireball over the Baikonur cosmodrome.
Upto 500 tonnes of poisonous rocket fuel may have been released and infected the crash site.
There were no reported injuries.
The rocket was carrying three satellites for Russia’s Glonass (global) navigation satellite system.
It is not yet clear what caused the accident.
Immediately after takeoff, the rocket swerved to one side, tried to correct itself, but instead veered in the opposite direction. It then flew horizontally and started to come apart with its engines in full thrust. The rocket plummeted back to earth and exploded on impact close to another launch pad used for Proton commercial launches.
Fears of a possible toxic fuel leak immediately surfaced following the incident. While no such leak has been confirmed, the rocket was initially carrying over 600 tons of toxic propellants.
It is not the first incident involving a Proton-M rocket. A similar rocket crashed shortly after it was launched six years ago, and in 2010 another rocket failed to put three navigation satellites into orbit.
This is the same launch facility that will be launching Astra 2E, which is scheduled for launch on the 20th / 21st July.
Update: from nasaspaceflight : “The next Proton launch was expected to occur on 20 July, when a Proton-M/Briz-M will be used for a commercial launch conducted by International Launch Services, to orbit the Astra 2E satellite for SES. However, this will now be delayed, pending an investigation into Tuesday’s failure.”
Update 2: Video from spectators watching the failed launch from a distance….
Update 3 :A Russian TV said the launches from the Baikonur space centre will be most likely suspended for the next 2-3 months as the area was contaminated by about 200 metric tons of toxic rocket fuel.