Russian converted SS-18 missile crashes, destroying payload of 18 satellites

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A converted long-range Soviet-era Russian missile crashed today shortly after launch, destroying its payload of 18 satellites.

The International Space Company Kosmotras Dnepr Space Launch System rocket, based on SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile technology, crashed soon after lift-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, according to local reports.

Kosmotras mission control says in a statement that the engines of the Dnepr rocket shut down 86s into its flight.
The rocket crashed around 25km (15 miles) from Baikonur, with the loss of all 18 satellites.

The company recently launched the US manufactured Genesis-1 spacecraft on behalf of Bigelow Aerospace and the majority of the payload were for foreign customers, Kosmotras says.

Also on board was the first satellite for Belarus, whose president, Aleksander Lukashenko, had gone to Baikonur to see the launch, according to local media reports.

The Russian space agency Roskosmos has launched an enquiry into the cause of the engine failure. Preliminary findings show problems in the first stage of the booster rocket in the 74th second of the flight says the agency.

150 SS-18 missiles decommissioned under anti-nuclear weapons proliferation treaties, converted into launch vehicles, form the basis of the Dnepr programme.