Moscow: Russia`s new nuclear-capable missile suffered another failed test launch, the defence ministry said Thursday, solving the mystery of a spectacular plume of white light that appeared over Norway.
The Bulava missile was test-fired from the submarine Dmitry Donskoi in the White Sea early Wednesday but failed at the third stage, the defence ministry said in a statement.
The pre-dawn morning launch coincided with the appearance of an extraordinary light over northern Norway that captivated observers.
Images of the light that appeared in the sky above the Norwegian city of Tromso and elsewhere prompted explanations ranging from a meteor, northern lights, a failed missile or even a UFO.
Describing the latest failure of the Bulava as a major embarrassment for the military, leading Russian defence analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said the images were consistent with a missile failure.
"Such lights and clouds appear from time to time when a missile fails in the upper layers of the atmosphere and have been reported before," he told AFP.
"At least this failed test made some nice fireworks for the Norwegians," he joked.
The White Sea, which is the usual site for such missile tests by Russian submarines, lies close to Norway`s own Arctic region.
This was the 12th test launch of the Bulava and the seventh time the firing has ended in failure, the Interfax news agency said.
The submarine-launched missile is central to Russia`s plan to revamp its ageing weapons arsenal but is beset by development problems.
"The first two stages of the rocket worked but in the final and third stage there was a technical failure," the defence ministry said in a statement.
The statement said the problem was with the engine in the third stage, while in past launches the first stage had been faulty.
The problems with the Bulava have become an agonising issue for the defence ministry, which has ploughed a large proportion of its procurement budget into ensuring the missile becomes the key element of its rocket forces.
The previous failure in July forced the resignation of Yury Solomonov, the director of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology which is responsible for developing the missile.