Proton Fails 17 Seconds into Glonass Launch

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PARIS — A Russian Proton rocket carrying three Russian Glonass positioning, navigation and timing satellites failed 17 seconds after liftoff on July 2, with the rocket crashing some 2.5 kilometers from the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan, Russia’s Roscosmos space agency said.

The agency said that a preliminary assessment has found no fatalities or major injuries, nor any damage to the launch installations.

Proton launches of Glonass satellites into medium-Earth orbit use the Block DM upper stage, which is not the upper stage used for commercial International launch Services (ILS) missions carrying telecommunications satellites to the higher, geostationary orbit.

But this failure, occurring just 17 seconds after ignition, was apparently the result of a problem in the first stage, which is common to both Proton variants. Roscosmos said the failure followed the emergency switch-off of the engine powering the rocket following an unidentified “emergency.”

Reston, Va.-based ILS, recovering from Proton’s previous anomaly in December, had hoped to launch one commercial satellite per month between March and August and had been on track to do just that before the July 2 incident. The next commercial flight scheduled on Proton was scheduled for later in July, to carry the Astra 2E satellite for commercial fleet operator SES of Luxembourg.