Unmanned Russian rocket dives to earth after launch.

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Unmanned Russian rocket dives to earth after launch.

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An unmanned Russian rocket carrying three navigation satellites has crashed. A state run television station captured the moment. Within seconds it was clear the Proton-M booster rocket with its payload reckoned to be worth around 150 million euros was in trouble as it veered off course.

It had taken off from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan. It’s reported all the staff were in bunkers and there were no injuries as the rocket lost control and headed back to earth.

On board was around 170 tonnes of heptyl a highly toxic propellant which exploded on impact as it crashed and burned in a ball of fire.

On the ground an amateur video reflected the shock and panic as the fireball spread.

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said the accident had been caused by the emergency switch-off of the rocket’s engines 17 seconds into the flight.

The head of Kazakhstan’s space agency said it was raining at the time and it was unlikely the toxic clouds would reach the town of Baikonur about 60 kilometres away.