Russian Rocket Fails During Launch, Explodes After Liftoff

At 2:38 UTC Tuesday morning (local time) a Russian Proton-M heavy lift rocket carrying three GLONASS navigation/positioning satellites exploded shortly after lifting off from the pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome. The event was captured on a live Russian news feed, seen above.

No word yet on whether there were any injuries or not according to, no casualties have been reported but the Proton rocket debris may have landed near another pad used by ILS (International Launch Services) — a U.S./Russian joint venture for commercial launches.

According to Anatoly Zak at, “since the emergency cutoff of the first stage engines is blocked during the first 42 seconds of the flight to ensure that the rocket clears the launch complex, the vehicle continued flying with its propulsion system firing practically until the impact on the ground.”

Reminder: space travel is (still) hard.

Update: Watch another view of the failed launch below:

The shockwave at 1:01… yikes.

34 Replies to “Russian Rocket Fails During Launch, Explodes After Liftoff”

  1. All that “$” and technology up in smoke. I often wondered. What insurance covers space vehicles and cargo? All this technology within along with the vehicle itself must have some sort of insurance coverage. Is it the commercial insurance companies who cover the losses? Is it the government themselves who just eat the cost and damages? Does anyone know how it works?

    1. who gives a flying duck about insurance? it was an epic fail! money is an illusion. seriously so many sheep roam these lands without an idea of the slaughter.

      1. Hey Jr., wake up an smell the coffee beans where your at. .Actually its calls a “rats ass”. What Island you on? And with out ‘insurance co’s’ the economy would tank. The banking system, the Wall Sts. of the world depend on them. Is your car covered Jr? 😉

    2. Big global insurers like Zurich and Allianz insure spacecraft and launch events. And spacecraft probably aren’t even their biggest liabilities – the same insurers insure skyscrapers, nuclear plants, oil platforms and ocean ships.

      1. Oil rigs and too uh. I never knew, now I do, thanks to you. Thank you squidgeny. 😉

  2. I am guessing it is a sad day for the insurers.

    I wonder about the future of the Proton M Heavy Lift Vehicle … so many failures.

  3. Looks like an SRB failed to ignite, dooming the stack immediately. Guidance over-corrected, and catastrophic integrity failure waited until that sudden stop after hitting the ground. No manual or auto-destruct, or failure?

    (A ghastly demonstration of what might have happened, but didn’t, at every Shuttle launch, following a similar SRB fail or non-simultaneous SRB ignition.)

    Supposing it was an SRB failure, did the same wayward engine ignite later, perhaps due to slosh and burn of core fuel? And a comparison of ATK, ESA and Russian solid programs would be informative.

    We’re still working at the razor’s edge of our technological capabilities.

    1. “No manual or auto-destruct, or failure?”

      According to, “… the first stage engines is blocked during the first 42 seconds of the flight to ensure that the rocket clears the launch complex… “

    1. They should really add fins. It’s always worked for me when my rockets have flipped just after launch.

  4. It’s stuff like this which is why I’m already worrying about the James Webb launch.

    1. 0:28 Here goes the launch.

      0:34 (inaudible) sight.

      0:39 Something seems to be going wrong…

      0:44 Something is wrong!..

      0:48 I guess this is going to be a disaster.

      0:50 And now the rocket is heading toward the ground and disintegrates in mid-air.

      0:55 And an explosion.

      1:02 And so, during the live broadcast, we’ve witnessed the unsuccessful launch of the rocket Proton-M with 3 GLONASS satellites on board.

      1:14 The fumes of dark smoke go up in the air.

  5. The system uses 24 satellites and yes they’re already up there – but they get replaced from time to time with upgraded versions.

  6. Where’s the RSO? The vehicle should have been destroyed as soon as the flight went haywire.

  7. As a kid I remember watching all those NACA rockets do the promenade de la mort.

  8. I am no longer in a hurry to catch a ride on a Russian rocket to the ISS. 😉

    1. Considering that the Space Shuttle had a 1.5% flight failure rate, 40% vehicle failure rate, and killed more people then any other space vehicle in history, I’ll be quite happy catching a ride on a Russian rocket :p

  9. This goes to show that we’re still a long long way from just jumping into a spaceship and blasting off into the void, a la Han Solo.

  10. There’s no explosive packs on Baikonur launches. They just cut the engines (which couldn’t happen yet because they were still in lockout) and let it fall back to earth.

    1. Even our Space Shuttles had RSO packages, since no one really likes a full tank of LOX and a pair of flaming SRBs coming down on the heads of the local populace. (Even if it is mostly gators and flamingos.)

      Who likes relying on Russia for their space launch capability now, show of hands…?

      1. Apparently they gave an engine cut-off order at 12 seconds but there is a fail-safe lock of a minimum of 42 seconds to try to avoid the LV falling back onto the launch pad and associated buildings including mission control.

      2. Finding out more about their situation. The highly toxic fuels used may also be a factor. It may be more prudent to let the vehicle crash down in one spot, instead of converting the launch vehicle into a rapidly expanding plume of airborne toxic waste.

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