The Kazakhstan government has cancelled its joint Russian-Kazakh Ishim micro-satellite launcher project ahead of testing planned for this year.

Insurmountable technical problems including trying to land the project's modified RSK MiG-31 Foxhound carrier aircraft with a micro-satellite launcher still attached doomed the project.

The MiG-31 was to carry a three- or four-stage 10,000kg (22,000lb) solid-propellant rocket with its micro-satellite payload.

The rocket and its payload would be flown to an altitude of 49,000-65,500ft (15,000-20,000m), at which point the rocket would be dropped and its engines ignited.

"Its technology is very complicated. No one proved the MiG could land [with a rocket still attached]. It was a decision of the Kazakh people," says Russian Federal Space Agency international relations director Vyacheslav Lisitsin.

He added that the two parties had concluded that there was an insufficient market for the project's services considering its technical difficulties but that Russian-Kazakh co-operation was much wider and that would continue in many areas including space navigation.

Moscow-based RSK MiG and Russia's Institute of Heat Engineering were developing the system.

Although the market was deemed insufficient, the project had received enquiries from Israel Aerospace Industries, Finmeccanica, Rafael and Surrey Satellite Technology (Flight International, 7-13 March 2006).

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