Russia to pay Kazakhstan $1.1m for rocket crash damage

06 Nov 2006

(Associated Press WorldStream via NewsEdge) Russia has agreed to pay $1.1 million in compensation for the damage caused by the crash of a Russian rocket that spilled highly toxic fuel over land in the ex-Soviet state.

The Dnepr booster rocket, carrying 18 satellites, crashed in late July after blasting off from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

"The estimate includes $741,000 for the environmental damage. The rest is compensation for running a government commission," Azamat Abdymomunov, Kazakhstan's deputy minister for education and science, said in televised remarks.

Russian environmentalists and medical doctors have finished cleaning up the contaminated land and found no locals poisoned by rocket fuel, said Alzhan Braliyev, deputy minister for environment protection.

"After three medical checks, no patients poisoned by rocket fuel were identified," he said.

The crash caused no injuries or damage on the ground, but was feared to have seriously polluted the area with the highly poisonous rocket fuel heptyl. Kazakh emergency officials said the concentration of various toxic and other harmful substances in the crash area exceeded permissible levels by at least 1,000 times.

Russia's space program has recently suffered several embarrassing failures, jeopardizing its hopes of earning more revenue from commercial launches of foreign satellites.

The launch of a rocket carrying a European weather satellite was postponed indefinitely in July because of a problem discovered minutes before liftoff. Before that in March, a booster rocket failed to put an Arab commercial satellite to a designated orbit.

In October 2005, a high-profile European satellite was lost because of a Russian booster failure. The loss of the $142-million CryoSat satellite dealt a major blow to the European Space Agency, which had hoped to conduct a three-year mapping of polar ice caps and provide more reliable data for the study of global warming.

Also that month, space experts failed to recover an experimental space vehicle after its return, engineers lost contact with an earlier launched Russian Earth-monitoring satellite, and a new optical research satellite was lost due to a booster failure.

© 2006 The Associated Press

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