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Proton-M crash causes no environmental damage to Kazakhstan: Kazkosmos

The recent accident with the Russian Proton-M carrier rocket carrying an advanced communication satelite has not caused any damage to the environment of Kazakhstan, Tengrinews reports citing the Press Office of the National Space Agency of Kazakhstan.

On May 16, 2014 at 3:42 Astana time the Proton-M carrier rocket fell back to Earth shortly after liftoff. It carried an advanced Russian communications satellite Express-AM4P. Contact with the carrier rocket was lost 540 seconds after liftoff. 

"The launch of the carrier rocket from Baikonur space center went normal. The first stage separated somewhere over Kazakhstan's Karaganda Oblast, then the second stage of the rocket was discarded over the territory of Altai, Russia. The accident happened during operation the third stage of the rocket over the Pacific Ocean. The carrier rocket fell outside Kazakhstan's borders and did not pose any threat to the environment of Kazakhstan,” Deputy Chairman of Kazkosmos National Space Agency of Kazakhstan Yerkin Shaimagambetov said.

Russia's Roscosmos federal space agency formed a special commission to analyze the telemetric data and identify the cause of the accident. According to the preliminary conclusions, the third stage failed at the altitude of 160 km at a speed of 7 km/s. The emergency situation was probably caused by malfunctioning of the steering engine of the third stage. The commission confirmed that all the components (the third stage and the head part) as well as the remaining fuel were burnt in the upper atmosphere.

All further launches of Proton-M including the launch scheduled for July 15, 2014 will be suspended until the exact causes of the accident are identified.

The space communications satellite Express-AM4P made by French Airbus Defence and Space Company for Russian Satellite Communications Company was meant to provide Internet access to far-flung Russian territories with poor access to communication.

Russia's space industry, which is very active with more than 30 launches just last year, has been subject to a lot of western criticism over launch failures.

This recent launch was the second time in one year that a Proton-M rocket failed during liftoff. On July 2, 2013 Russian Proton-M carrier rocket carrying three Glonass-M navigation satellites crashed right after the lift-off at Baikonur cosmodrome. In that case, the exploded Russian carrier rocket released 600 tonnes of highly toxic fuel, including kerosene, heptyl and amyl which are highly poisonous components of rocket fuel. A number of protests occurred across Kazakhstan urging use of ecological fuel at Baikonur Cosmodrome while some were calling to ban Proton M launches from Baikonur space centre altogether.

Writing by Assel Satubaldina, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina

Video of the May 16 launch from Baikonur:  

18 may 2014, 14:00
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Proton-M crash causes no environmental damage to Kazakhstan: Kazkosmos
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