NPR : News

Filed Under:

Baikonour, We Have A Problem. Russian Rocket Crashes And Burns

This morning saw the spectacular failure of an unmanned Russian rocket. A massive Proton-M rocket carrying three Russian navigation satellites veered off course shortly after liftoff. Try not to cover your eyes:

Amateur video reportedly shot from nearby captured the ill-fated flight in a single frame:

A brief statement from the Russian Space agency says the failure occurred 17 seconds into the flight. The New York Times reports there were no injuries or fatalities from the accident, but says authorities told the 70,000 residents of the nearby Kazakh city of Baikonur to stay indoors over fears that a cloud of toxic rocket fuel released into the air during the crash could drift toward the city.

But rainfall appeared to have broken up the poisonous plume, and news reports said officials lifted the restrictions hours later.

The crash of the Proton-M rocket appeared to have been caused by a failure of the first-stage Energomash RD-276 engines, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and rocket expert at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

McDowell tells NPR in an email that he doesn't think the accident poses a risk to American and Russian astronauts, who depend on a different rocket known as Soyuz to get to the International Space Station. The Soyuz is built by a different manufacturer and uses different parts.

But, he says, the failure is yet another blow for Russia's struggling space industry. The Proton-M is built by Khrunichev, which has been "the most successful Russian company in terms of marketing its rockets to the West," McDowell says. "But the failure rate over the past few years is now likely to discourage commercial [communications] satellite companies from booking Proton rides."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

A Biography Of Your Cubicle: How This Became The Modern Workplace

The office has long been seen as a symbol of boredom: It's a killer of spirits, a destroyer of spontaneity. But reviewer Rosecrans Baldwin says a new book brings out its entertaining side.
NPR

California Farmers Finagle A Fig For All Seasons

Two growers are competing to harvest fresh figs earlier and earlier in hopes of transforming the industry for year-round production. But some fig lovers say they can hold out for summer fruit.
NPR

On The Ballot In Georgia This Year: JFK

JFK is running for a Georgia state Senate seat this year — John Flanders Kennedy, that is. He's a Republican, but his signs bear an uncanny similarity to the logo the former president once used.
NPR

Life Outside The Fast Lane: Startups Wary Of Web Traffic Plan

The Federal Communications Commission's proposal would let Web companies pay for faster access. But entrepreneurs, like Reddit's co-founder, are wondering how they would have fared with such rules.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.