Interview with Yury Karash

Yury Karash, an independent space analyst, gave Russia Today his comments concerning  the Proton-M booster crash in Kazakhstan.

Russia Today: Can you tell us about the Proton-M booster, and what may have happened to make the engine cut out?  Has this happened before?

Yury Karash: Proton-M booster is an advanced version of the classic Proton-K booster. The former is more environmentally friendly, it has a special system that burns the remaining fuel out of the disposed rocket stages and empties all fuel from the tanks of these stages. As for the cause of the crash – it is difficult to say. It could be a foreign object in the fuel pipe of the second stage, or the electronic system failed. I think we should wait and see for the conclusions of a special investigating commission. 

RT: Could this damage the image of the Proton-M booster in terms of commercial launches?

Y.K.: Maybe to some extent. But we should not forget that there were 327 launches all-in-all. Overall, the booster has performed quite well. As far as I know, almost 90% of its launches were successful, which is quite a good performance for a launch vehicle. I think the rocket will have customers for many more years to come. 

RT: They've suspended launches of the Proton-M because of the environmental effects. What are these likely to be?

Y.K.: In fact, they call Proton a “poison rocket” as it uses toxic fuel. Even when everything goes smoothly, up to 1.5 metric tonnes of toxic gas may remain in the disposed rocket stage . That’s exactly the reason why Proton-M was developed – which is able to burn the remaining fuel out – in case of a launch mishap toxic fuel may drop on Kazakh territory.