A Russian rocket exploded and then crashed within moments of being launched this morning from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. As you can see from the RT video I have posted up top, there was absolutely no waiting for disaster.
The unmanned Proton-M rocket took off and then erupted in an exploding fireball for reasons that are still currently unknown.
The three satellites it was carrying for Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System would appear to be a total loss. The RT commentators in the video say that the crash debris landed in an inhabited area.
You’ll hear them express concern about the possibilities of radioactive contamination to the area from the exploding Russian rocket’s payload. However, at the time of this writing, a CNN report said that there were no known human casualties.
Clearly, the investigation into the cause of the explosion is just beginning.
The RT commentators hint at low morale and a shake-up at the Russian space agency, but they don’t know or don’t wish to share any details. So it’s all fairly speculative at this point.
Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait has pointed to a suspicious plume from one of the liquid-fuel motors. But he isn’t sure if that’s the cause of the Russian rocket’s explosion or simply a sign of something else that went wrong.
I can’t read Russian, folks, so I also have Plait’s blog to thank for pointing me to a second video of the explosion, taken by observers on the ground:
I think one of the guys filming this footage is crying.
A Yahoo! report said that Kazakh officials are worried because the just-launched rocket contained 600 tons of highly explosive kerosene, heptyl, and amyl.
Nearby residents have been asked to stay indoors with their windows closed while the authorities assess the damage from the Russian rocket explosion.
[Proton-M rocket still photo by AlexPGP via Wikimedia]