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  sci-tech > space > story pagecorner  

Kazakhstan bans rocket launches after Russian crash

Incident likely to delay International Space Station

October 28, 1999
Web posted at: 9:48 AM EDT (1348 GMT)

graphic

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (CNN) -- Kazakhstan said Thursday it would suspend all launches from its Baikonur cosmodrome for the second time this year after a Russian rocket crashed on its territory shortly after takeoff in a repeat of a July accident.

The unmanned Proton carrier rocket exploded six minutes after liftoff Wednesday, completely destroying the rocket and its payload, an Express-A communications satellite belonging to the Russian state-run Space Telecommunications company.

The accident was likely to further delay the launch of a key Russian component of the International Space Station.

  MESSAGE BOARD
International Space Station
 

"Today we will take the decision to ban launches from the Baikonur cosmodrome until the commission clarifies the circumstances surrounding the incident," Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev was quoted by his spokesman as saying.

The Russian-built Zvezda, a key command and control component of the space station that also will serve as temporary crew quarters, had been scheduled for launch on a similar Proton rocket sometime between December 26 and January 16.

NASA officials in Houston now see that launch window target as highly doubtful.

On July 5, another Russian communications satellite was destroyed when the second stage on that Proton rocket failed after pieces of metal were sucked into the engine's thruster. Following a two-month investigation, the Russian Space Agency declared the Proton fit to fly.

Proton rockets were successfully launched September 6 and September 26.

A government commission left at once for the scene, and an emergency unit searched for traces of radiation and a toxic fuel used by Protons known as giptil.

ISS
Illustration of the International Space Station   

The accident resembled a crash in July that also involved a Proton booster. That accident triggered an acrimonious dispute between the normally friendly neighbors.

Kazakhstan, which inherited Baikonur when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, slapped a ban on flights. Though it lifted the ban in September, it said it would demand more revenues from future launches.

Initial talks between the two countries following the latest accident have lacked the hostility of those four months ago.

A Kazakh government statement said that Tokayev had discussed the crash with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, stressing the "close cooperation" between the sides in clearing up the damage from the rocket failure.

Correspondent Miles O'Brien and Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Technology - U.S. satellite launched on Russian rocket
September 27, 1999
Technology - Russia launches first Proton rocket after ban
September 7, 1999
Kazakhstan halts Russian space launches after crash
July 6, 1999

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