Soyuz U
Launch vehicle Soyuz U
Launch site Plesetsk, Russia
Date/Time 2002-10-15 18:20
Description First stage failure
Cause Possibly alien objects in one of the strap-on boosters' engines
Payload Foton M-1 (Scientific satellite)
Desired orbit Low-Earth orbit


A Russian Soyuz-U, carrying a 6.5-ton Foton-M research satellite, reportedly exploded shortly after lift-off. Twenty-nine seconds of flight, the telemetry link with the rocket was lost.

The Russian state commission investigating the explosion said its preliminary findings indicate that the incident was caused by a "production fault" in one of the rocket’s four strap-on boosters.

According to Russian Space Agency spokesman Sergei Gorbunov, investigators have come to the conclusion that one or more alien objects in one of the strap-on boosters' engines set off a series of malfunctions which led to the crash.

It seems likely that there were actually several alien objects, probably located in the turbo-pump of the engine as well as in a hydrogen peroxide tube leading to it.

Gennady Anshakov, deputy general director and first deputy general designer of Samara-based TsSKB Progress, said the malfunction was "of a singular character" and not caused by poor workmanship. "There were no deviations from the documentation in the booster assembling process."

The defunct engine was manufactured at the end of 1998 or the beginning of 1999 at Motorstroitel, and the rocket was assembled at TsSKB Progress in 1999.

Last updated: 2011-08-25

See also:

Launch Failures Chronology