Foton-M No.1 was an unmanned space mission by the European Space Agency[citation needed] aboard a Russian Soyuz-U rocket that failed to launch successfully. The spacecraft's payload consisted of 44 experiments prepared by the European Space Agency, Fluidpac, BIOPAN-4, Telescience Support Unit, and others. The mission was supposed to consist of 15 days spent in orbit of the Earth and then re-enter for a landing near the Russia-Kazakhstan border.[1]

The launch occurred at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on 15 October 2002 at 18:20 UTC. The Blok D strap-on produced an abnormal start transient, but for unknown reasons, ground controllers did not send a shutdown command and abort the flight. Eight seconds after liftoff, the Blok D's propulsion system shut down. The booster climbed to an altitude of about 200m before the strap-on broke away from the stack. At this point, the onboard computer sent an automatic shutdown command to the core and remaining strap-ons. The Blok D strap-on fell back onto LC-43 while the rest of the launch vehicle impacted the ground some distance away. A 20-year old army lieutenant was killed and considerable damage resulted to launch facilities.

Investigation found that the most likely cause of the failure was debris being ingested into the Blok D hydrogen peroxide pump, cutting off the supply of lubricant to the turbopumps. This was the first failure of an R-7 launch vehicle in the first two minutes of launch since 1988. The next time an R-7 vehicle would fail before reaching space would be the 2018 Soyuz MS-10 in-flight abort.


  1. ^ Soyuz Rocket Fails to Deliver Foton M1 to Orbit Archived. Retrieved April 13, 2007