- Kazakhstan moves to play down Baikonur spat with Russia
- Proton-M rocket with Intelsat-16 satellite blasts off
- Proton-M lifts off from Baikonur with telecoms satellite onboard
Kazakhstan has no objection to launches of Russia's Proton carrier rockets from its territory while a new environmentally-friendly launch pad is being put into operation, the head of the Kazakh space agency said on Wednesday.
Russia and Kazakhstan are currently working on the Baiterek launch pad at the Baikonur space center. The pad is designed for the launch of Angara carrier rockets running on environmentally friendly fuel consisting of oxygen and kerosene, compared to the toxic heptyl used in Proton launch vehicles.
"We should speak about the gradual reduction or full termination of launches of Proton carrier rockets, operating on heptyl, after Baiterek is put into operation," Talgat Musabayev, the head of Kazcosmos, said.
Russia's activities at the Baikonur space center have been marred by Proton accidents and Kazakhstan's complaints about toxic pollution. The family of Angara rockets, capable of delivering 26 metric tons of payload into low-Earth orbits, will complement, and eventually replace, the existing line of Proton and Rockot launch vehicles.
Musabayev reiterated that "the Proton carrier rocket currently has the best technical characteristics among other rockets of this class in the world."
"It will be definitely hard for Russia to abandon this carrier rocket, which is to say the 'working horse' for Russia and puts a significant amount of spacecrafts into orbit," he said.
Due to this, he added, it is impossible to immediately terminate launches of Proton-class carrier rockets "because there would be no practical sense to Russia's activities at the Baikonur space center."
Baikonur, built in Kazakhstan in the 1950s, is the main launch facility for the current generation of Russian rockets and was leased by Russia from Kazakhstan under an agreement signed in 1994 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia pays an estimated annual fee of $115 million for the use of the space center, which has the world's busiest launch schedule at the moment.
The Baiterek project is being implemented on a parity basis and enjoys tax, customs and other privileges. Kazakhstan and Russia have reportedly each allocated $223 million for the construction of the Baiterek launch site under a 2004 agreement.
ASTANA, March 3 (RIA Novosti)
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