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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Baikonur Launch Pad Shut Down




ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan on Tuesday suspended all launches from its Baikonur cosmodrome, the day after a Russian military satellite launched from the pad crashed in Kazakhstan.


Russia relies heavily on the cosmodrome, which was built while Kazakhstan was still part of the Soviet Union. Russia now leases it from the Central Asian nation to launch manned flights to the Mir space station and commercial and military satellites.


On Monday, a Russian Raduga-1 satellite and the final stage of its Proton booster rocket crashed in Kazakhstan's Karaganda region, said Konstantin Lantratov, a spokesman at the Khrunichev Space Center in Moscow.


In response, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry issued a statement Tuesday suspending launches from Baikonur. The statement said the suspension would remain in effect while officials investigate Monday's crash and the overall environmental consequences of the launches.


Russia's Foreign Ministry apologized Tuesday for the accident and said Russian experts had left for the Karaganda region to investigate, Interfax reported.


A spokesman for the Russian Space Agency said he had not seen the Kazakh statement, but that the suspension might affect a scheduled July 14 launch of a cargo flight to Mir.


The spokesman, who would not give his name, said Kazakhstan had long been threatening to suspend launches because of environmental concerns. Environmentalists have complained about the dumping of rocket fuel that occurs whenever there is a space launch in the region.


The Raduga-1 satellite blasted off from Baikonur on Monday evening. Ten minutes after the satellite reached its preliminary orbit, it stopped responding to signals from mission control and all communications were lost.


A 200-kilogram piece of the Proton rocket fell into the yard of a home in Gorbushevka village in Karaganda, Itar-Tass said. No one was hurt and there was no damage to surrounding homes, it said.


The satellite's launch had been delayed several times. The latest postponement came Sunday, when officials decided that improvements were needed in the launch mechanism and rescheduled liftoff for Monday.