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Russian Proton Rocket Lost Control After Launch

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan, October 28, 1999

A Russian Proton-K booster rocket, Launched Wednesday, October 27 from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, was lost a few seconds after launch. Ground control lost contact with the Proton-K rocket 220 seconds after launch, failing to meet its intermediary orbit. The launch vehicle was carrying a communications satellite. It was later reported that parts of the rocket and satellite crashed either somewhere in Russia's Altai mountains or in the adjacent regions of Kazakhstan.

Another Proton rocket, launched in July, crashed on a remote Kazakh village. That incident caused a major argument between Russia and the Central Asian state, who normally had cordial relations. As a result, the Kazakh authorities temporarily banned all launches from Baikonur. They were resumed in September.

About Baikonur Cosmodrome

Baikonur cosmodrome is the main launch site for the Russian space programme. Rocket trajectories from Baikonur are chosen to avoid heavily populated areas, tracking mainly across barren Kazakh steppe and remote mountains of southern Siberia. Baikonur was inherited by Kazakhstan after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Moscow rents the facility from Kazakhstan for $115 million a year.

Following the July crash, disagreements began regarding overdue payments. This triggered calls in Kazakhstan for a greater share in the revenue from future launches. Just a month ago, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met then Kazakh Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev to iron out the differences. It was not certain what would come from the latest crash.

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