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Russia launches Proton carrier rocket after the ban

RIA Novosti

26/10/2007 12:12 MOSCOW, October 26 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has successfully conducted a delayed launch of a Proton carrier rocket from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, the Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) said Friday.

The Proton K rocket, which has been on the launch pad since Monday, lifted off at 11.35 a.m. Moscow time (7.35 a.m. GMT) and put in orbit three Glonass global navigation satellites, the space agency said.

Kazakhstan 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.

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.

A full orbital group of 24 satellites will be ready for global coverage by the end of 2009, Roskosmos said earlier.

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