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Proton rocket to launch Glonass satellites Friday

RIA Novosti

25/10/2007 15:55 MOSCOW, October 25 (RIA Novosti) - The delayed launch of three Glonass satellites on board a Proton rocket is set to go ahead on Friday from the Baikonur space center, a Khrunichev State Research and Development statement said Thursday.

The Proton K rocket, which has been on the launch pad in Kazakhstan since Monday, will lift off at 11.35 a.m. Moscow time (7.35 a.m. GMT) October 26.

Astana lifted a ban Wednesday on Proton launches from the Baikonur space center, which Russia rents from the ex-Soviet Central Asian country. The ban was imposed following a September 6 crash of a Proton-M rocket for which Kazakhstan is seeking 1.5 billion rubles ($60 million) in compensation.

Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos), told RIA Novosti the launch was postponed until Friday due to Kazakhstan's Republic Day, which is celebrated on October 25.

Perminov congratulated Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov on the national holiday by telephone and thanked him for lifting the ban.

The Proton is a heavy rocket which uses highly toxic heptyl as fuel. The rocket that crashed last month was carrying almost 219 metric tons of the fuel at the time of the crash, which contaminated a 32,000-hectare area of land.

Kazakh authorities said on October 15 that they had completed decontamination work at the crash site.

Glonass (Global Navigation Satellite System) is a Russian equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), which is designed for both military and civilian use, and allows users to identify their positions in real time.

A total of 9.88 billion rubles ($380 million) was allocated for Glonass from the federal budget in 2007, and 4.7 billion ($181 million) in 2006. The system is to become fully operational by 2008.

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