Russians lose $200m of space stuff in rocket explosion

The Russians have had an absolute shocker this morning, after a rocket containing £200m worth of satellites blasted off, did a U-turn, and smashed into the ground about 100 yards from the launch pad.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Nov 2014

It didn’t really have the elegance of, say, the launch of the first man into space (Yuri Gagarin), or using a pencil while the Yanks spent millions on a special ‘space-pen’. Instead, the Russian Proton-M rocket, which was unmanned, blasted off from a base in Kazakhstan, began weaving and barrel rolling, then arched over and hit the ground again, going up in a massive fireball. There were three navigation satellites on board the spacecraft, which it had been planning to launch into orbit - but alas, the rocket’s flight ended barely half a mile from the launch pad itself. 

Russia has been trying to ramp up its efforts in space exploration - but this is not the first fluffed satellite launch In recent years, and an attempt to get a probe to one of Mars’ moons failed, too. The Phobos-Grunt was sent out in November 2011 to try and collect a soil sample, and then on its way back deliver a Chinese satellite into orbit around Mars.

Unfortunately, the rockets that were designed to push it out of earth's orbit failed, meaning that there was a limited amount of time before the thing's orbit would expend, leaving it to crash back down to earth at a speed of 29,000 km/h. That's pretty fast. Anyway, it crashed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, but it is not known where, because the only equipment capable of finding out (in the world) belongs to the US, which does not license it to the Russian space programme.

Of course, the US has pared down its spending on NASA (although Obama is still talking about a manned mission to Mars by 2030). But Russia's Putin announced earlier this year plans to spend 1.7 trillion rubles (£33.5 billion) on Roscmosmos (the country's space agency) from 2013 to 2020, a yearly average of £4.8 billion. That's up from the £2.7 billion already earmarked for 2013.

 Anyway, here is a video of the whole palaver…

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