Knight's Canadian Info Collection


Space Related Disasters
(not causing death)

A series of non-fatal accidents have plagued space exploration since it began in 1957 with the launch of the Soviet Sputnik satellite. The following is a chronology of some key incidents:-

April 18, 1986 - A Titan missile believed to be carrying a military satellite explodes shortly after launch from the Vandenberg Air Force Base launch site in California.

May 3, 1986 - A Delta rocket carrying a $57 million weather satellite explodes shortly after lift-off from Cape Canaveral.

February 22, 1990 - Western Europe's 36th Ariane rocket, carrying two Japanese satellites, explodes less than two minutes after lift-off from Kourou, French Guiana.

June 18, 1991 - A 46-foot (15-metre) Prospector rocket carrying 10 science experiments for the U.S. space agency and several universities is destroyed after veering off course after launch from Cape Canaveral.

August 2, 1993 - A Titan 4 rocket believed to be carrying an expensive military spy satellite explodes after lift-off from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

December 1, 1994 - Western Europe's 70th Ariane rocket crashes into the Atlantic with the $150 million PanAmsat-3 telecoms satellite after launch from Kourou, French Guiana.

January 26, 1995 - The Chinese-designed Long March 2E rocket carrying a telecommunications satellite explodes after blast-off from Xichang in southwest Sichuan province.

October 23, 1995 - An unmanned Conestoga rocket whose satellite contains 14 scientific experiments explodes 45 seconds after blast-off from a NASA facility in Virginia.

February 15, 1996 - A rocket carrying an Intelsat 708 communications satellite explodes soon after take-off from China's launch site in Xichang.

May 20, 1996 - A Soyuz-U booster rocket carrying reconnaissance satellites explodes 49 seconds after lift-off from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome.

June 4, 1996 - Europe's Ariane-5 rocket explodes 40 seconds into its maiden flight after blasting off from the European Space Agency launch centre in Kourou, French Guiana.

June 20, 1996 - A Soyuz-U rocket carrying reconnaissance satellites explodes after lift-off at Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

May 20, 1997 - A Russian Zenit-2 booster rocket carrying a Cosmos military satellite explodes 48 seconds after launch.

August 12, 1998 - The U.S. Titan rocket programme is put on hold when a Titan 4A explodes soon after lift-off in one of history's most expensive space disasters. The cost of the rocket and its spy satellite cargo was put at more than $1 billion.

August 27, 1998 - A Delta 3 rocket carrying a U.S. communications satellite bursts into a $225 million fireball, soon after blast-off from Cape Canaveral on its maiden flight.

September 10, 1998 - A computer malfunction brings down a Ukrainian rocket carrying 12 commercial satellites, minutes after blast off from Baikonur.

July 5, 1999 - A Russian Proton-K heavy booster rocket launched from Baikonur suffers a malfunction that detaches the engine and parts of the booster, causing them to crash onto the steppe. A 200-kg (440-lb) chunk falls into the courtyard of a private house. Kazakhstan briefly closes Baikonur in a row with Russia over clean-up costs and rent for the base.

September 23, 1999 - NASA's $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft breaks up as it enters the Martian atmosphere due to confusion among its constructors between metric and old English measuring units.

October 28, 1999 - A Russian Proton rocket carrying a communications satellite crashes shortly after take-off from Baikonur.

December 3, 1999 - NASA's Mars Polar lander loses contact with earth after reaching the Red Planet. The $165 million mission is a write-off.

August 15, 2002 - NASA's $159 million Contour space probe, launched on July 3 and designed to chase comets, breaks up on leaving Earth's atmosphere.

December 11, 2002 - An upgraded European Space Agency Ariane-5 rocket explodes soon after blast-off from Kourou, French Guiana, sending two satellites worth about $600 million plunging into the Atlantic Ocean. There may also be other un-reported Soviet and Chinese accidents.
(Source: Reuters News Agency)

December 2003 - Canada's first mission to another planet - a $5-million instrument package aboard Japan's ($115-million) probe Nozomi, missed Mars and is now lost in space. It joins the other 20+ probes to Mars that have been lost previously by the USA, the former USSR and Russia. Nozomi was lost in space. The probe was designed to study the atmosphere and ionosphere of Mars.

December 2003 - Beagle 2 was a small British-built lander that was carried to Mars on European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter mission. The spacecraft was on a trajectory to land on Mars on December 25, 2003 but no signals from the lander were ever received by groundbased antennas or NASA or ESA. The project has now been declared a failure. Beagle 2 cost roughly 40 million British pounds ($57 to $65 million US).

Sepember 08, 2004 - The Genesis space capsule and its precious cargo - billions of particles from the sun - crashed into the Utah desert in a last-minute disaster of a near-flawless, three-year scientific odyssey. Because of what apparently was a parachute failure, the $260 million space probe didn't slow down as it entered Earth's atmosphere. Tumbling end over end, Genesis smashed into a desert bombing range at 193 mph at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah.

October 07 2005 - A pilot model of the new Demonstrator spacecraft went missing on the far eastern Kamchatka peninsular after launching on a rocket from a Russian nuclear submarine. No signals were received from the craft. The Demonstrator was expected to make the transport of loads to the ISS much cheaper than if carried by US space shuttles. Three previous test launch failed for various reasons.

October 08, 2005 - A European Space Agency CryoSat satellite, that was to have collected data on polar sea ice and provide more reliable data for the study of global warming, broke up in flight after being launched on a converted ballistic missile. Remnants of the $210 million satellite crashed into the ocean.

October 27, 2005 - A Mozhayets-5 satellite, intended for optical experiments, was launched by a Kosmos-3M booster rocket from the northern Plesetsk launch pad. European Space Agency officials lost contact with the satellite which failed to enter its planned orbit. The rocket also carried seven smaller foreign satellites that successfully entered their designated orbits.

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