The Kazakhstan Government has eased its ban on Russian launches imposed following the failure of a Proton booster launched from Kazakhstan earlier this month.

The prohibition had threatened a mission to deliver equipment to the Mir space station. The mission was due to go ahead from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome on 16 July following high level talks between Russia and Kazakhstan, after which Russia agreed to pay off $115 million in outstanding fees for use of the cosmodrome. The ban on Proton boosters remains.

The four-stage Proton booster failed on 5 July after launch from Baikonur (Flight International, 14-20 July). The Russian State Commission established to investigate the failure was due to publish its preliminary report on 19 July.

Dr Anatoly Nedaivoda, of the Krunichev State Research and Production Space Centre, heading Krunichev's internal investigation, says the first 227s of the Proton flight were normal, with payload fairing separation occurring at 186s. At 227s, engine three on the second stage began to indicate a significant temperature increase in the combustion chamber, resulting in the melting of propellant lines and the aluminium alloy fuel tank.

The second stage was then destroyed in an explosion. The third stage, with the Breeze M and the satellite intact, flew on under its own momentum until 325s, when destruction began.

At around the same time, destruction began of the fuel tank on Breeze M. Debris fell in a track 80-90km (50-56 miles) deep and8-10km wide. Kazakhstan plans to seek compensation from Russia for environmental damage caused by the failure. On a recent visit to China, Kazakhstan's deputy prime minister is quoted in local press reports as saying a government commission will determine the level of compensation once the environmental damage has been assessed.

Kazakhstan has previously expressed concern about the safety risk and environmental damage due to falling rocket stages and unspent propellants.

Source: Flight International