Saturday, September 8, 2007

Russian Rocket Crashes, Dumping Toxic Fuel

The Proton Rocket failed slightly more than 2 minutes after launch from Baikonur, sending rocket and payload debris crashing down in Kazakhstan. The rocket carried 220 tons heptyl, which is highly toxic, at the time of launch.

There have been several crashes of Russian rockets. In 2006, one accident dumped 100 tons of toxic fuel in Central Asia's steppes.

In 1999, Kazakhstan officials temporarily banned launches from Baikonur after two rockets crashed within four months. The multi-million-dollar contract with Russia to house Baikonur in many ways has been a devil's contract, as local officials and residents worry about long-term effects of soil and water from crashes..

An unmanned Russian rocket carrying a Japanese communications satellite malfunctioned after liftoff Thursday, sending parts crashing in an uninhabited part of Kazakhstan and triggering concerns about environmental damage.

Nobody was hurt, but it was a potential blow to Russia's program for commercial satellite launches.

The Proton-M rocket failed to put the JCSAT-11 satellite into orbit because of a problem during operation of the second stage, the U.S.-based American-Russian joint venture International Launch Services said.

The rocket failed 139 seconds after its launch from the Russian-rented Baikonur facility in Kazakhstan, and its second and third stages veered from the planned trajectory at an altitude of 46 miles, said Alexander Vorobyov, a spokesman for the Russian space agency Roskosmos.

Parts of the rocket fell in an uninhabited area about 30 miles southwest of the central Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Vorobyov said

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