1) Proton M (2013)

Price: $65 Million

The launch took place on time, with the Proton M in its dramatic fashion lifting off as usual. However, the rocket skew to one side almost immediately before trying to correct itself, sending it in turn skewing in the opposite direction.

The vehicle then flew horizontally for a brief amount of time, with its engines still firing, before plummeting back to Earth. Aerodynamic stress saw the payload fairing and the rocket’s upper part collapsed and disintegrated before the Proton crashed back to the pad complex.

2) Atlas Centaur V (1965)

Price: Classified

The fifth of the R&D Atlas-Centaurs was launched in the form of LC-36A on March 2, 1965, but abruptly failed shortly after the liftoff. The cause was determined to be the fuel (RP-1) pre-valve that apparently closed causing the booster engines to lose thrust thus enabling the fully charged vehicle to recede to impact the launcher assembly and break up releasing all the Atlas stage propellants creating a huge explosive force fireball.

3) Atlas Centaur (1962)

Price: $70 Million

This was the first attempt to launch an Atlas / Centaur from the Atlantic Missile Range that proved unsuccessful when a second stage structural failure caused the Centaur stage to blew up at T+55 seconds. The launch marked the first U.S. use of a space vehicle powered by a liquid hydrogen engine despite this failure.

4) Falcon 9 (2015)

Price: $62 Million

The Falcon 9 rocket was launched with SpaceX’s seventh Dragon cargo mission to the space station from Cape Canaveral on June 28, 2015. The first stage of the launcher flew as planned until T+136 seconds, after liftoff, when a vapor puff suddenly appeared near the top of the Falcon 9. A pressurized helium vessel that broke free in flight triggered the rupture of the upper stage liquid oxygen tank of the Falcon 9.

5) Titan 1 (1959)

Price: $12.6 Million

The first Lot B missile was expected to demonstrate the flight stability of the TITAN I on August 14th, but as the missile built up thrust before its Complex 19 lift-off, its tie-down bolts exploded early, causing one of the umbilicals generated a “no – go” signal to the flight controls of the ground support equipment as the missile prematurely lifted off the pad. The “no – go” signal caused the flight controls to automatically kill the engine and the TITAN lost all thrust. The missile fell back and exploded through the ring of the launcher, damaging the umbilical tower in the ensuing fire.

6) Atlas (1957)

Price: Classified

The SM-65 Atlas was the first U.S.-developed and deployed intercontinental ballistic rocket, at the Kearny Mesa assembly plant north of San Diego, California, Air Force by Convair Division of General Dynamics. In October 1959, Atlas became operational as an ICBM and was used for half a century as a first stage for satellite launch vehicles. The video shows the first launch of an Atlas missile in Cape Canaveral. Following engine failures, the Atlas explodes when the Range Safety Officer sends the destruct signal.

7) Juno II (1959)

Price: $10.83 Million

Juno II moving to earth orbiting launches of satellites. One of the most spectacular failures ever seen at the Cape was the first such launch attempt.

Vehicle AM-16, with a 42 kg multi-purpose scientific satellite called ExplorerS-1, was removed from LC 5 on July 16, 1959 during daylight. The S-3D engine gimballed full stop during liftoff and the rocket turned (uprange) to the west. Soon it was parallel to the ground, still turning harder .

Before the Range Safety Officer transmitted cutoff and destroyed commands, about 5 seconds after liftoff, the white rocket almost turned upside down. The fully-fuelled rocket crashed into pieces to the ground and exploded in a massive fireball. The ground impact was approximately 76 meters (250 feet) northwest of the pad and 91 meters (300 feet) southwest of the blockhouse, where the stunned launch crew was watching solid top-stage engines burn on the ground.  

An investigation found that a short circuit in a power supply inverter voltage regulator had occurred between two diodes. The short had cut off the guidance system power, causing a gimbal in its entirety. Conformal coating would be used by future circuit boards of this type to reduce the chances of recurrence.

8) Ariane 5 (1996)

Price: $60 Million

On 4 June 1996, soon after its lift-off from Kourou, French Guyana, the unmanned Ariane 5 rocket exploded just forty seconds after being launched by the European Space Agency . The rocket was on its first journey, costing $7 billion after a decade of development. An investigative board investigated the causes of the explosion and issued a report in two weeks. It turned out that a software error in the inertial reference system was the cause of the failure. Specifically, a 64-bit floating point number was converted to a 16-bit signed integer related to the rocket’s horizontal velocity relative to the platform. The number was larger than 32,767, the largest integer stored in a 16-bit integer signed, and therefore the conversion failed.

9) Atlas (1958)

Price: Classified

The Atlas C, was an Atlas missile prototype. First flew on December 24, 1958, it was the final version of the Atlas rocket before the operational Atlas D. It was originally planned to be used as the first stage of the Atlas-Able rocket, but after an explosion during a static test on September 24, 1959, it was abandoned in favor of the Atlas D. Six flights were made, all sub-orbital Atlas test flights as an Intercon. All launches were carried out at Launch Complex12 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

10) Antares (2014)

Price: $80 Million

The failure started in one of the two AJ26 engines of the Antares rocket when another component inside the power plant was contacted by a spinning rotor inside a liquid oxygen turbopump, triggering an explosion, according to engineers.

NASA investigators traced the cause of the mishap to one of three sources: an engine manufacturing failure in turbine housing with a liquid oxygen turbopump bore, a design flaw in engine hydraulic balance and thrust bearings, or foreign object debris ingested into the engine.

In conclusion, we must remember the fact that although these tragic launches have been failures, 94% have been successful, and without them we would not have accurate Sat-Nav, and they provide information and services to support global communications, the economy, security and Defence, Safety and emergency management, the environment and health. As technology advances, the potential of satellites will undoubtedly continue to grow.