Russia’s space program had an unexpected setback this morning. A Proton rocket carrying a communications satellite disappeared in a fiery explosion. The rocket, whose satellite payload was intended to offer broadband Internet to residents of far-off rural communities throughout Russia, began to break up after only 504 seconds in the air.
State broadcaster RIA Novosti said that the European Union-made satellite on board was insured for approximately $72 million. The Proton rocket, insured for $224 million, launched from the ex-Soviet Union’s equivalent to Kennedy Space Center–Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome–and allegedly burned up in the air over China, leaving no debris. The below video, from Russian government-affiliated television station RT, gives more context to the explosion:
Officials say the rocket’s control engine failed.
This is the latest setback in several months for Russia’s space program. Russia and the United States are currently grappling over access to the International Space Station. Space agency Roscosmos’ head Oleg Ostapenko has only been in charge for seven months. His predecessor, Vladimir Popovkin, was fired after multiple failed rocket launches occurred under his tenure. Ten percent of all Russian rocket launches since 2001 have been unsuccessful, which includes several lost satellites and mid-air explosions.