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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 June, 2005, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Military rocket crashes in Russia
Molniya M launching in February 2004, AP
The unmanned Molniya-M rocket was carrying military equipment
An unmanned Russian rocket carrying a military satellite has crashed to Earth in Siberia soon after its launch, Russian news agencies have reported.

Officials say they believe no one on the ground was hurt when the Molniya-M rocket came down in a thinly populated region of Siberia.

The rocket was launched from the Plesetsk military cosmodrome.

Helicopters were used to search for wreckage from the rocket, a spokesman for the Russian Space forces said.

"The military communications satellite has not been delivered into orbit because the rocket... suffered engine failure," Alexei Kuznetsov, of Russia's military space programme, said.

The Molniya-M lifted off normally, officials said, but the second and third stages failed to separate in the sixth minute and the rocket crashed down into the isolated region of Tyumen.

According to the Space Forces, there are no reports of damage on the ground and the environmental impact will be "minimal" since the main fuel components were kerosene and liquid oxygen.

"Either the third-stage engine failed, or the control system did not respond to a command to separate," Russian space agency chief Anatoly Perminov told Interfax news agency.

Military prosecutors had opened a criminal investigation into a possible violation of flight rules, Interfax said.

See the Russian Molniya-M rocket launching

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