Russia launches Proton carrier rocket

By RIA Novosti

Moscow : 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.

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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 Satellite System) 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 Sep 6 crash of a Proton-M rocket, for which Kazakhstan is seeking 1.5 billion roubles ($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 tonnes of the fuel at the time of the crash, which contaminated a 32,000-hectare area of land.

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

Glonass is a Russian equivalent of the US 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 roubles ($380 million) was allocated for Glonass from the federal budget in 2007, and 4.7 billion roubles ($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.