October 24, 2016 | Barb Carr

Remembering an Accident: Nedelin Catastrophe

On October 24, 1960 at the Baikonur Test Range in Russia, a massive explosion occurred in the testing of the Soviet ICBM R-16 missile. The second-stage engine ignited, detonating the first-stage fuel tanks (which had not been drained) directly beneath it causing this catastrophic explosion. Any and all military men and test-range employees working on it were immediately incinerated. Unfortunately the fire and fumes spread so quickly that all over men on the range were killed soon after. However, this missile was a secret project therefore the explosion had to remain a secret. It wasn’t exposed in a magazine article until April 1989.

Is taking a shortcut like not draining the fuel tanks resourceful? No. It’s dangerous and cost the Soviet army much more than they bargained for.

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