In a repeat of a late 2010 disaster, three Russian GLONASS satellites were lost this morning in a fiery crash shortly after takeoff. The Proton-M rocket carrying them broke up and hit the ground within a minute of takeoff.
Initially there were concerns of a toxic fuel leak, but one has not been confirmed, although toxic fumes from the burning fuel are a hazard. The rocket came down on Cosmodrome property and there have been no reports of casualties or damage to the nearby city of Baikonur.
According to Igor Marinin, Editor-in-Chief of Russia’s Cosmonautics News magazine, there haven’t been any crashes in the first seconds of flight in the Russian space industry for at least ten years. There is speculation that the cause is due either to control systems or the rocket itself.
Interestingly, there are other similarities between this crash and the 2010 disaster…
The crashed Proton-M rocket employed a DM-03 booster, which was being used for the first time since December 2010, when another Proton-M rocket with the same booster failed to deliver yet another three GLONASS satellites into orbit, crashing into the Pacific Ocean some 1,500 kilometers from Honolulu.