An unmanned Russian Proton-M rocket has crashed seconds after its liftoff from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
A video footage broadcasted by Rossyia 24 television showed that immediately after the takeoff, the rocket exploded into a fireball. The projectile swerved to one side and tried to correct itself, but instead veered in the opposite direction.
The explosion of the rocket, which was carrying three satellites for Russia’s Glonass navigation satellite system, spilled up to 600 tonnes of poisonous rocket fuel in the area, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
The cause of the accident is not clear yet and no injuries to surroundings structures had been reported.
This is not the first time a Proton-M rocket is involved in an accident. In December 2010, Russia lost three Glonass satelliteswhen a Proton-M veered off course and crashed in the Pacific Ocean.
Several experts are already pointing to an engine failure as the cause of the crash. “It’s either the control system or the engine that has caused the accident. If the accident occurred in the first 10 to 20 seconds, than the engine is likely to be the cause,” a source in the space agency told RIA Novosti.
The accident is now being investigated by a team headed by Aleksandr Lopatin, deputy head of Russia’s space agency Roskosmos.
Meanwhile, the emergency ministry of Kazakhstan has warned that toxic fuel from the rocket could pose an ecological threat to the surrounding area.
Launches from the Baikonur space centre will be provably suspended for the next 2-3 months.