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Russian Proton Rocket Fails After Launch, Destroys Satellite: Reports

About nine minutes after launching towards space, a Russian Proton rocket reportedly crashed Friday (May 16), destroying an advanced satellite being carried on board. The incident happened about 540 seconds after liftoff, after the events of the video shown above.

Russian news site RT (among others) reported that the rocket and Express-AM4R mainly burned up in the atmosphere, meaning no physical damage would be caused to the ground. But this failure marks the latest of several for the Russian rocket type in recent years.

“The exact cause is hard to establish immediately; we will be studying the telemetry. Preliminary information points to an emergency pressure drop in a steering engine of the third stage of the rocket,” said Oleg Ostapenko, the head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), in a quote cited in RT.

Archive picture of a Proton launch. Image credit: ILS

Archive picture of a Proton launch. Image credit: ILS

The third stage is called a Breeze-M and reportedly experienced an emergency engine shutdown after the rocket veered on to a different trajectory than it was supposed to. Proton launches have ceased at the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan pending an investigation.

The satellite was supposed to provide “TV and radio broadcasting, broadband Internet access, multimedia services, telephony, [and] mobile communications,” according to the Russian Satellite Communications Company.

Media reports say there have been six failures of this rocket type in the last three or four years. You can read about some of the past failures on Universe Today here:

Rocket Failures May Spur Change In Russian Federal Space Agency: Report (October 2013)

Russian Rocket Fails During Launch, Explodes After Liftoff (July 2013)

– Weekend Update: SpaceX Success, Russian Launch Failure (December 2010)

Satellite Fails To Reach Proper Orbit (March 2008)

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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