An unmanned Russian Proton-M rocket carrying three satellites crashed only seconds after takeoff in Kazakhstan Tuesday, causing no injuries but potentially contaminating the area around the crash site with rocket fuel.
The 17-story-tall rocket was carrying three GLONASS navigation satellites when it was launched from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome, but swiftly veered off course and exploded on impact near another commonly used launch pad, reported RT.com.
It remains unclear what caused the launch failure.
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No one was injured by the accident, although the Interfax news agency reported Kazakh Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Bozhkov as saying that "the burning rocket fuel has blanketed the launch pad with a toxic cloud," according to the Associated Press.
Residents of the area have been told to stay inside and close their windows, and the area immediately surrounding the launch site has been evacuated.
The rocket was the fifth Proton launch of 2013, notes Space.com. The class has suffered five major launch failures since December 2010 — indicating that an investigation into the causes of these accidents will likely be forthcoming soon.
The Proton-M rocket is designed as a "carrier" rocket, and is derived from the Soviet-era Proton model. It was first launched in 2001, and is regularly used for commercial purposes.