The Norwegian Rocket Incident

What were you doing on January 25, 1995? If it wasn’t for Boris Yeltsin, you would have been gone. The Norwegian rocket incident, also known as the Black Brant scare, occurred on January 25, 1995, when a team of Norwegian and American scientists launched a Black Brant XII four-stage sounding rocket from the And?ya Rocket Range off the northwestern coast of Norway. The rocket, which carried scientific equipment to study the aurora borealis over Svalbard, flew on a high northbound trajectory, which included an air corridor that stretches from Minuteman III nuclear missile silos in North Dakota, all the way to the Russian capital city of Moscow. During its flight, the rocket eventually reached an altitude of 1,453 kilometers (903 mi), resembling a U.S. Navy submarine-launched Trident missile. As a result, fearing a high altitude nuclear attack that could blind Russian radar, Russian nuclear forces were put on high alert, and the nuclear weapons command suitcase was brought to Russian president Boris Yeltsin, who then had to decide whether or not to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike against the United States.