A Russian Proton rocket disintegrates seconds before hitting the ground and exploding in Kazakhstan. (Courtesy: Russia TV/CNN)
A Russian booster rocket carrying three satellites has crashed at a Russia-leased cosmodrome in Kazakhstan shortly after the launch.
The Russian Space Agency said in a statement Tuesday that the Proton-M booster unexpectedly shut down the engine 17 seconds into the flight and crashed some 2 kilometers (over a mile) away from the Baikonur launch pad.
Russian officials said there were no casualties or damage immediately reported. Meanwhile, the Interfax news agency quoted Kazakh Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Bozhkov as saying that the burning rocket fuel has blanketed the launch pad with a toxic cloud. But he said authorities have yet to determine its potential danger to the environment.
Another Proton-M booster crashed in Baikonur in August 2012 when it failed to place two satellites into orbits.