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Saturday, 8 April, 2000, 05:28 GMT 06:28 UK
Soviet rocket blast left 48 dead
The Plesetsk cosmodrome
Plesetsk cosmodrome today: Questions over safety
Twenty years after the event, a Russian TV station has shown pictures of an accident at a Soviet cosmodrome in which nearly 50 people died.

Russian NTV International said the accident occurred during the launch of a Vostok rocket on 18 March, 1980.


Seconds before disaster
Seconds before disaster
It left a total of 48 members of the Soviet Missile Troop dead.

The rocket had been carrying a military spy satellite, Ikar.

The TV programme said the Soviet Communist Party newspaper, Pravda, reported at the time that the launch had been a success.

The explosion of 300 tonnes of fuel completely incinerated the launch pad and its surroundings at the Plesetsk cosmodrome in north-west Russia.

Doctors from a nearby hospital said injured personnel had arrived with acute burns, in particular to their lungs.


Many of the injured had horrific burns
Many of the injured had horrific burns
A state commission which investigated the tragedy at the time concluded that operator error was to blame for the accident. It said the blast had been caused by the escape of liquid oxygen.

But the TV programme, called Independent Investigation, said it had established that the explosion on the launch pad had in fact resulted from a leakage of oxygen peroxide caused by the poor quality of the rocket's fuel filters.

TV finds little change

The programme said pre-launch procedures at the Plesetsk cosmodrome have remained unaltered since the blast.


The price of safety failures
In memoriam: The price of safety failures
"The launch pad has never been modernised, ever since it was first built.

"The design centre drafted the blueprints for the facility during the Cold War and the safety of personnel was the least of its worries," the programme said.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

28 Oct 99 | Asia-Pacific
Crash prompts Russian rocket ban
11 Nov 97 | Monitoring
Floating cosmodrome nears completion
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