A Russian Proton-M rocket carrying three GLONASS navigation satellites crashed soon after liftoff today from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome, reports rt.com (Russia Today).
About 10 seconds after takeoff at 02:38 UTC, the rocket swerved, began to correct, but then veered in the opposite direction. It then flew horizontally and started to come apart with its engines in full thrust. Making an arc in the air, the rocket plummeted to Earth and exploded on impact close to another launch pad used for Proton commercial launches.
The crash was broadcast live across Russia. Fears of a possible toxic fuel leak immediately surfaced following the incident, but no such leak has been confirmed, rt.com reports. The rocket was initially carrying more than 600 tons of toxic propellants.
No casualties or damage to surroundings structures or the town of Baikonur have been reported.
Below is a video of the crash.
Discussion of the crash can be found here.
As RT.com reports, 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 another three GLONASS satellites into orbit, crashing into the Pacific Ocean 1,500 kilometers from Honolulu.
UPDATE: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has appointed a special government commission to investigate the causes of the crash and identify any officials who may have been responsible, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Medvedev also directed his government to prepare tougher oversight measures over the space industry to prevent such accidents in future, RIA-Novosti reported.
Two more videos of the crash are now available.