Here is a youtube video of the start of a Russian Topol-M ballistic missile.

A lot of little strange things are fired away from the rocket body when the rocket is half-way from its transport-launch container:

enter image description here
enter image description here

What could these be?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ And also, what causes the two secondary exhaust plumes that are briefly visible at the top of the frame, around the 3:11 mark? $\endgroup$
    – aroth
    Feb 4, 2019 at 2:58
  • $\begingroup$ @aroth: I don't think they are exhaust plumes. They look like small smoke or dust clouds, or maybe something on the lens, that get illuminated by the flame. Just like the ones to the left at 3:09 that are visible in the two frames shown above in the question. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2019 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ My best guess is ... those could be chocolate candies or ice cream sandwiches for the launch crew. $\endgroup$
    – cybercow
    Feb 4, 2019 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ My guess would be on the launch crew too... $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2019 at 20:33

2 Answers 2


If you use the YouTube commands for single framing ( , and .) you can clearly see the rocket retaining rings around the body which are ejected outwards by pyrotechnics as it leaves the launch/storage tube.

These rings keep the rocket centred in the tube and are ejected to make the aerodynamic body for flight.

  • 48
    $\begingroup$ +1 just for the YouTube single-frame commands. I did not know that. Thanks for the tip! (tried them just now, and yes, they work) $\endgroup$
    – AaronD
    Feb 4, 2019 at 4:05
  • $\begingroup$ @AaronD: Good stand-alone video players like mpv and mplayer that it's based on have the same thing (with the same keyboard controls in mpv's case), plus lots more (aspect ratio and a/v sync adjustment that makes some bad youtube videos watchable, and mpv plays youtube URLs if you have youtube-dl installed.) Also zoom. $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2019 at 11:56

In a word - they are "Sabots". Brian has already explained what they do.


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