I was under the assumption that, in contrast to the oft-repeated "oh, those Russians", Protons actually do have launch termination systems which can be used to destroy the vehicle, akin to American "range safety" systems.

However, I was under the impression that those Russian/Soviet launch termination systems were not activated until a certain distance from the pad/time after launch, due to the incredibly carcinogenic fuels (N$_2$O$_4$/UDMH) used in the Proton.

The reasoning being, I believed, that it's considered better for the vehicle to blow up after clearing the pad, some distance away, rather than to be blown up directly on it, as the absence of red death clouds floating over the pad would aid recovery and cleanup efforts.

However, I've been recently informed I may be completely wrong, and there is no launch termination sequence present at all on the Proton-M (and, I assume, earlier Protons).

Am I wrong? Does the Proton-M have a launch termination system?

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, the surface of the Earth. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 22:29

1 Answer 1


«Если что-то в ракете перестает работать, подается команда АВД — «аварийное выключение двигателей». Это пошло еще со времен боевых ракет, чтобы в случае отказа ракета упала на нашей территории. Двигатели выключаются, ракета падает в атмосфере и, как правило, сгорает», — поясняет редактор журнала «Новости космонавтики» Игорь Афанасьев. Поскольку ракета стоит гораздо меньше стартового комплекса, в аварийных случаях в момент пуска основная задача — наоборот, увести ракету от старта. «Поэтому в случае отказа или даже взрыва одного из двигателей первой ступени подается команда на форсирование оставшихся и только потом подается команда АВД», — пояснил эксперт.

“If something in the rocket stops working, the EES-command is given - “emergency engine shutdown”. This has gone back to the days of military missiles, so that in case of failure, the missile would fall on our territory. The engines are turned off, the rocket falls in the atmosphere and, as a rule, burns out,” explains Igor Afanasyev, editor of the Novosti Kosmonavtiki magazine. Since the rocket costs much less than the launch complex, in emergency cases at the moment of launch, the main task is, on the contrary, to divert the rocket from the launchpad. “Therefore, in the event of a failure or even an explosion of one of the first-stage engines, a command is given to force (engine boost) the remaining engines and only then the EES-command is given,” the expert explained.

History, design and characteristics of the Proton rocket

  • $\begingroup$ Great info! I had heard of this but couldn't find a reference. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 3:06
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, it's what happened with Proton disaster in July 2013. The engines were shut down after 13 seconds of the flight than the rocket was far enough from the launchpad. It fell on the ground. $\endgroup$
    – Heopps
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 10:44
  • $\begingroup$ Taking it that's a no? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ @AntonHengst shutting off the engines is a fairly effective way of "terminating the launch". $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 19:09

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