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Russian Proton-M Rocket Veers Off Course and Crashes in Fiery Explosion (Video)

First Posted: Jul 03, 2013 09:07 AM EDT
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On Tuesday, an unmanned rocket blasted off from Kazakhstan. Moments afterward, it veered off course, crashing in a fiery explosion as it sprayed fuel across the launch pad and incinerated the three satellites it was carrying. Now, authorities are trying to understand the cause of this crash--and are trying to control the damage to Russia's commercial space industry.

The rocket itself was known as the Proton-M rocket--and it's perhaps not surprising that it failed. There have now been four Proton failures in a mere three years, according to the New York Times. This has raised concerns among NASA officials and others who utilize Russia's space services. Since NASA no longer possesses its own transportation for American astronauts headed to the International Space Station, it's mainly relied on Russia in order to ferry space travellers in and out of orbit. This newest accident, though, could be a major setback for this transportation outsourcing.

The crash itself occurred at the Baikonur facility, a location that Russia rents on a lease that expires in 2050. It's likely that work at the facility will be suspended for two or three months so that workers can clean up the toxic fuel that was dumped across a wide swath around the crash site, according to the LA Times. It's a major setback for Moscow's space program--especially considering the fact that the three satellites that were lost were worth $200 million.

While the crash itself was devastating, there were also more immediate impacts. Toxic clouds billowed from the crash site, prompting officials to consider evacuating the nearest town about 40 miles away. Fortunately, though, rain soon dampened the smoke, according to the LA Times.

"According to the preliminary estimates from the Russian side, there is no destruction and there are no casualties," said Kazakh space agency, KazCosmos, in a statement, according to Reuters.

Currently, officials are investigating the cause of the crash.

Want to see the crash for yourself? Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

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