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Faulty cable blamed for September's Baikonur crash

RIA Novosti

09/10/2007 10:03 ASTANA, October 9 (RIA Novosti) - A damaged control cable caused a second stage separation failure during the launch of a Proton-M carrier rocket in Kazakhstan, the head of the Russian space agency said on Tuesday.

On September 6, the Proton-M rocket was launched from the Baikonur space center, which Russia leases from Kazakhstan. However, engine malfunction and second-stage separation failure led to its crash 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan in the Karaganda Region, with almost 219 metric tons of toxic fuel on board.

"A faulty control wire caused a second-stage separation failure, which led to an emergency engine shut-down," Anatoly Perminov said.

Meanwhile, Karaganda Region Governor Nurlan Nigmatulin said on Monday that Kazakhstan was seeking 1.5 billion rubles ($60 million) from Russia in compensation for the crash.

Search teams have surveyed a total of 1,743 square kilometers (1,083 sq miles) of territory around the crash site and have found 119 rocket fragments. Russian experts cleared the area where the rocket's booster came down four times after post-decontamination laboratory tests revealed that toxic fuel concentration in more than a half of 20 soil samples taken from the site exceeded permitted levels.

"According to our estimates, the damage comes to 7.327 billion tenges ($60 mln)," Nigmatulin said. Around 40% of this sum "is intended for the monitoring of the local population's health in the next three years," Nigmatulin added.

Kazakhstan is also insisting on compensation for residents in the risk zone.

The Kazakh emergency situations ministry said last week that the ban on Proton launches from Baikonur, suspended after the crash, would be lifted when Russia takes further environmental protection measures and makes payments for the "excessive pollution of the environment."

The next Proton-M launch, to deliver three Glonass navigation satellites into orbit, is scheduled for October 25.

The September incident was the 6th Russian rocket to crash after taking off from Baikonur.

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