Soyuz rocket fails on launch from Plesetsk cosmodrome carrying ESA experiment payload

October 17, 2002

Paris, 16 Oct 2002

A Russian Soyuz launcher exploded some 20 seconds after lift-off from the Russian Plesetsk cosmodrome last night, 15 October, at 20:20 CEST.

The launcher was carrying the unmanned Foton M-1 research satellite, using capsules of the Foton/Bion family containing 44 experiments supported by ESA. The experiments (*) covered a wide range of scientific disciplines, including fluid physics, biology, crystal growth, radiation dosimetry and exobiology.

ESA's contribution included: the Fluid Physics Facility, with four experiments, Biopan hosting nine experiments, the upgraded Telescience Support Unit, to assist both FluidPac and the German AGAT furnace, six Autonomous Experiments (three developed by university students) the latest Stone simulated meteorites, and the 'Soret Coefficient in Crude Oil' experiment.

France's IBIS biological incubator, Germany's AGAT, Russia's Polizon furnace and five Russian experiments (Biokont, Komparus, Mirage-M, Sinus-16 and Chistata) brought the spacecraft's overall payload to a total of 650 kg.

While there have unfortunately been reports of casualties, it has been confirmed that all engineers and experts from ESA, the French space agency CNES and the German space agency DLR involved in preparation of the spacecraft in Plesetsk are safe and sound.

A State Inquiry Board headed by Russian space officials will be shortly set up to investigate the causes of the accident.

(*)The experiments were prepared in Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

For more details please contact:

Dieter Isakeit
ESA, Human Spaceflight and Microgravity Directorate
Phone + 31(0)71.565.5451
Fax. + 31(0)71.565.3661

European Space Agency ml

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