(CBS NEWS) -- Three navigation satellites were reduced to smoldering embers early
Tuesday morning after a failed Russian rocket launch. The rocket was
unmanned, and no one was injured in the crash, Russian officials
Just after the early morning lift-off, the Proton-M
rocket exploded into a fireball, spiraling back to Earth at the Baikonur
Cosmodrome spaceport in Kazakhstan.
News channel Rossiya-24's
footage of the launch showed the rocket successfully propelling in a
straight trajectory until, 17 seconds into the launch, the booster
unexpectedly shut down the engine. The rocket made a sharp right turn,
flying in a large arc pattern and spiraling for about two more seconds
before the tail started to emit a copper trail of smoke. The tip of the
rocket was the first section to break off, but within three seconds the
entire 17-story rocket morphed into a waterfall of flames and dark
smoke, before crashing into the ground more than a mile from the launch
pad. The cloud of black smoke appears to stretch for miles.
Interfax news agency quoted Kazakh Emergency Situations Minister
Vladimir Bozhkov as saying that the burning rocket fuel has blanketed
the launch pad with a toxic cloud. But he said authorities have yet to
determine its potential danger to the environment.
Space Agency lost two satellites when another Proton-M booster crashed
in Baikonur in August 2012. At the time, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry
Medvedev said Russia had lost 10 satellites in seven failed launches in
just over a year.
Russian space officials have blamed the
failures on manufacturing flaws and engineering mistakes. But observers
say that the problem is rooted in a post-Soviet industrial meltdown that
has stalled the modernization of the space industry.
Tuesday morning's crash, Medvedev instructed Dmitry Rogozin, the point
man for industry and space, to come up with a plan to tighten control of
the space industry and prevent a repeat of this accident.