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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Protest Held Against Launch of Start-1 Rocket

ITAR-TASS 3 Mar 97
By Oleg Yemelyanov

YAKUTSK, March 3 (Itar-Tass) -- A demonstration of protest against the planned launching of Start-1 booster-rocket from Svobodniy cosmodrome, the Amur region, was held in Yakutsk today. Demonstrators marched through the city's central street, carrying posters "No rocket waste discharge", "Preserve nature", "We don't want another Baykonur". A rally was held in front of the republic's government building. Speakers at the rally demanded an ecological examination in the Verkhoyansk and Nyurbinsk districts where spent stages of rockets which took off from Baykonur and Plesetsk cosmodrome were dumped until 1995. They also demanded the abrogation of the 1996 agreement of the Yakutian government with the Russian Defence Ministry on the use of part of the republic's territory as the area for the fall of parts of booster-rockets launched from Svobodniy cosmodrome. Aleksandr Sukhodolskiy, technical director of the Complex research centre, which created the rocket, told Itar-Tass that Start-1 is a virtually ecologically-pure rocket and that its impact on the environment is within norm. He said the safety of Start-1 booster-rocket had been confirmed by an independent ecological examination.

The four-stage rocket built on a basis of the Topol military complex (SS-25 under the U.S. classification) burns solid fuel. Empty shells hit the ground after fuel burns out. They are 4-6 metres long and 1.5 metre in diameter. Specialists calculated that the first stage lands some 190 kilometres from the launch pad, in the territory of the Amur region. The second stage hits the ground at a distance of 1,100 kilometres from the launch pad, in Yakutia, while the third stage will hit the Arctic Ocean. The areas where burned out shells fall are virtually deserted. Only individual hunters may be staying there, no more than 20-30 people, Sukhodolskiy said.

On March 1, the Yakutian government expressed the doubt about the "ecological and technical safety of the rocket being launched", and demanded that the launching be called off. Meanwhile, the Military Space Forces making the launch coordinated in advance the matter of the parts fall with regional administrations, Colonel Sergey Gorbunov, chief of the press centre of the Military Space Forces, told Itar-Tass today. In addition, the population has been notified more than once and a special helicopter carries people free of charge to safe zones, Gorbunov said. The Start-1 rocket is to be launched on Tuesday, March 4, at five a.m. local time. It will put in orbit an 87-kilogram satellite Zeya. The first launching from Svobodniy cosmodrome was ensured by a number of Russian companies to a sum of 22 billion roubles.


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