A Russian rocket that was supposed to carry three navigation satellites into space instead exploded shortly after launch in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, showering flaming, toxic fuel around the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Authorities told residents of Baikonur, a 70,000-person city near the spaceport, to stay inside following the accident, cautioning about the danger of contamination from the carcinogenic fuel, know as heptyl in Russian, used to power the rocket.
The accident is the fourth in the past three years for the Proton-M, a Russian-made rocket designed to carry heavy loads into space, and marked the first time that a rocket equipped with the DM-3 booster had been used since 2010, when another Proton-M and its payload crashed into the Pacific. But engineer Sergei Gromov said that the DM-3 probably didn't cause the incident.
"DM-3 was to be switched into motion only about an hour after the launch so obviously it cannot be the problem," he told The Times. "Accidents do happen, but we shouldn't see a tendency here either as there have been several successful launches of Proton-M recently."