Russian Rocket Carrying 18 Satellites Crashes Shortly After Liftoff

A Russian rocket that was to put 18 satellites in orbit crashed shortly after liftoff early Thursday, the Interfax news agency reported.

The Dnepr rocket crashed about 15 miles south of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan but caused no injuries or damage on the ground, Interfax quoted Russian space agency deputy chief Yuri Nosenko as saying.

The rocket was carrying a Russian satellite and 17 from other countries, including the United States and Italy, Russian news agencies reported.

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Interfax, citing an unidentified Mission Control official, reported preliminary information indicated a problem occurred when the rocket's third stage detached. RIA-Novosti and ITAR-Tass, also citing unnamed officials, said the engine shut off 86 seconds into the flight.

Russia's space program has recently suffered several embarrassing failures, jeopardizing its hopes of earning more revenue from commercial launches of foreign satellites.

The launch of a rocket carrying a European weather satellite was postponed indefinitely last week because of a problem discovered minutes before liftoff.

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