back to article 3-2-1... BOOM: Russian rocket launches, explodes into TOXIC FIREBALL

An unmanned Russian rocket carrying three Glonass satellites veered wildly off-course shortly after takeoff and crash-landed in a fiery explosion. According to state news agency Ria Novosti, there have been no reported casualties, but officials have warned that a cloud of poisonous smoke from the Proton-M rocket's fuel could …

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Expensive...

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Re: "Expensive..."

Particularly for the insurance companies.

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Anonymous Coward

Careless!

Given one complete, and on partial failure before, I can't help wondering if it really made sense to stick three birds on the same launcher.

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Happy

Re: Careless!

They already had all the mission parameters set. Changing anything in a launch is a big deal and a massive alteration in payload as you're proposing would mean resigning three new missions. It was a risk, it didn't pay off, that's rocketry.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Careless!

"Changing anything in a launch is a big deal and a massive alteration in payload as you're proposing "

A dummy load in lieu of two of the satellites would have sufficed, surely, if it was that critical? And if launching fewer is that difficult, why was/is there one bird scheduled for launch in December?

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Loss of control

Heads will pitch, yaw and roll...

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Unhappy

OOps

I think that's one of those loaded with the highly toxic NTO/UDMH mixture.

Nasty.

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Boffin

Re: OOps

It certainly is NTO/UDMH. That's one reason the fireball is so big; UDMH will burn in air at almost any concentration.

The Russians use nasty chemistry like this instead of plain old H2/O2 for launches because storable fuels were much superior for ICBMs than cryogenic ones (modern ICBMs are solid-fuel) and these rockets are all derived from ICBM rockets, rather than being redesigned from scratch.

NTO/UDMH is still used in-space because it comprises non-cryogenic liquids with a very low freezing point and therefore they stay liquid out to Saturn orbit; they're also a hypergolic mixture, which means no need for an ignition system. There really isn't a good alternative that's less chemically nasty; any two liquids that ignite on contact are likely to be pretty unpleasant.

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Holmes

Re: OOps

The early rocket designs in "Across the Space Frontier" were huge flying tanks of Hydrazine and Nitric Acid. I wouldn't want to have been near the launch site...

Also:

Space launches make kids sick: Hydrazine fingered in leaked study

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Re: OOps

Anyone interested in this should read Ignition! by John D. Clark. It describes the early history of liquid rocket fules, and all their hilariously dangerous chemicals and experiments. It's out of copyright now so you can get a pdf.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: OOps

"any two liquids that ignite on contact are likely to be pretty unpleasant."

Not strictly.. one may be nice like glycerine... (hypergolic when mixed with KMnO4)

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No auto destruct ?

I was surprised that there was no auto destruct when the trajectory of the rocket drifted so far off.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No auto destruct ?

In Russia, self destruct not necessary. We just use gravity beam.

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Re: No auto destruct ?

I suspect the fuel's a big reason they don't use an auto-destruct. The area around the cosmodrome's pretty barren, so if it falls down nearby, it'll just explode like it did and burn itself out. Given the toxicity of the fuel, it's better to have it on the ground than in the air (where it has more drift potential).

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Re: No auto destruct ?

The rocket holds a hundred tons of kerosene - exactly what sort of auto destruct could destroy that quicker than it burning?

Presumably the former USSR has a few 1000 such devices lying around but putting them onto rockets might seem unfriendly

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Mushroom

Re: No auto destruct ?

It seems that is what the Launch button is for.

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E 2

Re: No auto destruct ?

LOL, they don't need no self destruct button.

Go and research pollution from Soviet era nuclear weapons facilities - the policy seems to have been to just dump the radioactive waste in the nearest river.

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Mushroom

Re: No auto destruct ?

I can't find my source now, but apparently the Proton doesn't have a self destruct charge, but if it goes out of bounds then the engines can be remotely shut off. Unfortunately this only happens 40s after liftoff...

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@Yet Another Anonymous coward

I was always under the impression that with civilian rockets the point of the self-destruct is to control where the rocket explodes. How quickly and completely it goes up after that are a secondary considerations. When you are moving at those kinds of speeds safe distances are a different order of magnitude than our normal considerations.

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Facepalm

Insurance...

Guessing the reinsurance will be even more costly seeing as they already lost their no claims discount in 2010.

Do they have rockets as a categories on Confused.com?

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Re: Insurance...

There's probably no point in insurance on Glonass. There's so many satellites that some are bound to go wrong or go bang. So it's cheaper to just save the insurance premiums towards when something like this happens.

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Re: Insurance...

@Aristotle

A pedantic point, and getting well off topic, but - reinsurance is the process by which an insurer (called a cedant) insures itself from another insurance company, called a reinsurer. In turn that reinsurer can insure the the risk with another reinsurer (a process called retrocession). This can, accidentally, become incestuous where a reinsurer can end up reinsuring itself if the retrocession chain is long/complicated enough.

You can spot these companies easily as they usually have a suffix of "Re" at the end of the name, such as Swiss Re, Ace Re etc.

When you insure your car your insurance company will most likely bundle the policy up with a load of others and then insure the whole package with a reinsurer.

Satellite insurance is really, really expensive. As a result many launches are self-insured. One of my old university friends had a satellite on the first Ariane 5 flight, not insured as they couldn't afford it. Not a good day at the office.

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Thanks

Today one of the local "news" outlets (Herald Sun) posted an "article" on this event, comprised only of two one-sentence paragraphs. The first explained that a Russian rocket had exploded on "take-off". The second was a quote from the official statement from the responsible agency stating that a rocket had exploded on launch.

Thanks for not being the Herald Sun.

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Yag
Joke

Wow!

The latest version of Kerbal Space Program is very realistic!

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Re: Wow!

Made me think of some of my failed launches in KSP.

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Yag

Re: Wow!

Well, the video made me think of most of my launches in KSP...

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Re: Wow!

My son has just taken to building rockets that will provide the most spectacular explosion on the launch pad with the command pod surviving. Having tried myself it's a lot harder than it looks.

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Boffin

Nose Section

It looks almost like the upper section of the rocket was intentionally separated during the fall. Is there a mechanism to eject the payload section in case there's a chance of recovering it?

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Re: Nose Section

It certainly looked as though a 'chute was being deployed

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Re: Nose Section

Doubt it. The join between the stages would be designed to handle high positive-G loads, not negative-G with aerodynamic side loading, so not surprising that it came apart.

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Black Helicopters

Oddly convenient

Funny how often Russian rockets have been going bust these days – just as SpaceX's launchers are about ready for prime time.

But I'm sure it's just fortuitous coincidence, nothing to see here at all!

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Mushroom

Amateur footage shows it better

This footage taken from a few miles away shows it failed shortly after it left the ground - something you can't tell from the official footage.

http://youtu.be/DSTVkkDv30k

Don't exactly blame them from ducking when it hit the ground.

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Re: Amateur footage shows it better

Especially as the rocket was getting visibly larger as it was careering towards the ground. The official video did show something that looked like incomplete fuel burning (soot) which I'm guessing could cause significat asymmetric thrust.

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Lot of rubles in the rubble.

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Black Helicopters

And next month, if Russia still hasn't handed over Snowden/turned a blind eye to a US SEAL snatch squad, they'll be another 'accident'...

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Russian engineers

Russian engineering - it's at the cutting edge of technology, but the attention to detail leaves much to be desired.

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Coat

Re: Russian engineers

It doesn't kill germans, so it's a bit boring and mundane...

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Top Gear Space Shuttle...

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Range Safety Officer

Was the RSO asleep?

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All the kings horses and all the kings men

Couldn't put that rocket back together again.

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Anonymous Coward

Smithereens? I'm not sure how big a smithereen is, but from the looks of things, anything on board that rocket is now in pieces significantly smaller...

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Joke

Maybe they should have used...

GPS instead. It might not have drifted off course!

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Mushroom

You are having a bad problem

you will not go to space today.

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Anonymous Coward

Rocket engineering

still tricky

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Oooooohhhhh! Aaaaahhhhhhh!

Shame about the satellites, but, still, that's some wicked-assed footage.

I don't have the time or inclination to root around on YouTube for it now, but there's some fairly famous footage of an Atlas booster test launch from the early Project Mercury development days in which the Atlas does a very similar move -- sort of wavering around in its trajectory before doing a U-turn in midair, heading almost straight down and plowing into the ground at full speed, like a rocket in an old Road Runner cartoon.

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Mushroom

Re: Oooooohhhhh! Aaaaahhhhhhh!

Acme Industries has a branch in Russia?

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Trollface

Ooops!

Okay, who forgot to comment out the legacy ICBM code in the flight control software?

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mass driver

i wonder when someone finally decides to build a mass driver instead of these outdated rockets

i wouldn't be surprised if its chinese and its somewhere in karakoram range

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Joke

Re: mass driver

A mass driver to get a projectile into orbit under Earth gravity, with sufficient initial force to also punch said projectile through 150 miles of atmosphere?

Enjoy your 500-G tomato-paste take off, matey!

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Re: mass driver

Don't forget that LEO orbit is something like 27,000kph and when you hit the wispy air at 100km up at that speed, your spaceship tends to burn-up, or at least glow red-hot as the ceramic tiles start stress because of the plasma generated by pushing the air that hard.

Now you want to be going faster than that at ground level, where the air is thicker? I think that approx 2 seconds after being turned into tomato paste, you would also be burned to a crisp. I await the youtube video clip of your attempt however.

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