Russia: Safety Concerns Keep Proton Rockets Grounded : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Safety Concerns Keep Proton Rockets Grounded 7:30 am PT, 24 January 2000

By Patricia Phillips

Although Russian space officials recently released a glowing projection of a dozen Proton launches this year, Kazakh officials retorted that such launches are still banned due to safety concerns. After the break-up of the former Soviet Union, the Baikonur Cosmodrome wound up under the control of Kazakhstan, which now leases the facility to Russia for about $115 million a year. However, two spectacular launch failures in both July and October sent rocket debris hurtling to earth around villages in the area.

Yuri Koptev, head of the Russian space agency, said that his announcement was based on the rental plans for this year. However, the Kazakh government still wants to review findings from a required Russian investigation into the crashes before giving a "go" for any more Proton liftoffs.

The Proton is the heavy-lift workhorse of the Russian space program. Although launches of the Soyuz and Zenit rockets are still allowed, Proton launches are required to send modules to the International Space Station. Russia's tardiness with ISS components and flights has been a key concern for Russian and U.S. space officials.

It's expected that Russian space officials will try to meet with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Moscow this week for a summit of 12 ex-Soviet states. The Baikonur rental relationship between the two countries has been strained by not only the crashes, but by what's been termed Russian diplomatic heavy-handedness, as well as a record of failing to pay the bills on time. However, Russia has paid Kazakhstan $370,000 for damages from the two crashed Proton rockets.

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-- Carl Jenkins (, January 25, 2000


They can lift other things besides commercial satellites with those monsters. Things like recon satellites.

Boosters take a long time to build. If you're contemplating mischief, better to have a few extra on hand.

-- Redeye in Ohio (, January 26, 2000.

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