Recent failure of Proton delivery vehicle might seriously damage prestige of the national military industrial complex

Russian military rocket programs are failing. Raduga-1 military satellite launched from Baikonur on July 5 did not reach the preset orbit and fell together with the non-separated stage of delivery vehicle in the territory of Kazakhstan (Karaganda Region) and Russia (Altai and Krasnoyarsk Territories). This means that the military communication and reconnaissance channels which Russia badly needs will still work under old programs. We need to remind that the failure of Proton delivery vehicle, which was considered one of the most reliable in the world, is the second during the last three years. In 1996 Raduga military communication satellite failed to reach the preset orbit due to the failure of the booster.

Raduga-1 communication satellite was to be delivered to a geostationary orbit with altitude of 36,000-37,000 km. Initially the launch of the rocket was scheduled for Sunday (17:36 Moscow time), but by resolution of the chairperson of the state commission it had to be postponed for technical reasons.

Public relations service of the State Space Scientific-Production Center of Khrunichev (manufacturer of Proton rockets and Briz-M boosters with assistance of which the satellite was launched) reported that the satellite which fell in Kazakhstan is “ecologically dangerous.” According to specialists, the total weight of the fallen object tops 80 tons. In the third rocket stage there were 26 tons of fuel, and about 20 tons of fuel were in the booster. Public relations service of the Russian space center stressed that the heptyl rocket fuel is a toxic substance.

According to the Russian party, the place where Raduga satellite fell together with Briz-M booster, third rocket stage, and empty second stage (without fuel) is located 1,050 km from the launch place, 10 km to the north of Saulmalkol (Kazakhstan).

After the launch of Proton-K delivery vehicle at the 280th second of its flight deviation from the nominal parameters of the flight were registered in the telemetric information transmitted by the satellite to the ground. At the 330th second of the flight the ground systems for control over the trajectory started registering deviation of the rocket trajectory from the nominal altitude parameters, which reached 14 km by the 390th second. The third stage of the delivery vehicle was not switched on. According to the Kazakh sources, a 200 kg fragment of the rocket fell in the yard of a private house of Gorbushevka settlement (Karaganda Region in Central Kazakhstan). According to representative of the regional administration, a few other small fragments fell within the radius of 10-15 km from the settlement. According to the regional administration, one of the fragments of Proton ignited grass in steppe. The fire embraced about 1,000 hectares. A part of fragments fell to the local small lakes.

The leadership of Kazakhstan reacted to the accident with Proton instantaneously. The statement of the republican government released a few hours after the accident says that for investigation of circumstances of the explosion and for estimation of damage, and ecological consequences a governmental commission was formed. The document adds that launches of satellites are forbidden until investigation of all circumstances of the accident, and estimation of the inflicted damage.

On the place of the fragments fall a special governmental commission of Kazakhstan is currently working, headed by Vice Prime Minister Alexander Pavlov. Meanwhile advisor to the President of Kazakhstan for aerospace issues Tokhtar Aubakirov announced during the meeting of the commission on July 8 in Karaganda that the “ecologically pure territory” of Bayanaulsky National Park (Pavlodar Region in Northern Kazakhstan) also suffered from heptyl.

During the same meeting Senior Vice Chairperson of the republican Emergency Situations Agency Nurakhmet Bizhanov announced that the government of Kazakhstan has to assign about 10 million tenge ($1=132 tenge) for the search and rescue missions in the Karkaralinsky District. According to him, all information about the expenses born by Kazakhstan during liquidation of consequences of the rocket failure are “to be handed over to Russia for reimbursement.’ According to Emergency Situations Agency, the measures are taken for protection of population from chemical poisoning with heptyl.

Scientists and politicians of Kazakhstan are alarmed by the accident. “Kazakhstan needs to revise its agreement with Russia on leasing of Baikonur cosmodrome,” announced on July 7 deputy of Kazakh parliament, member of the committee for international affairs, defense and security of the lower house Zhumagali Nauryzbai.

Nauryzbai called the annual payment of $115 million by Russia for the cosmodrome rent “miserable.” He added that “money for the rent is not paid.” Due to this he says that the rent charge is to be significantly raised.

According to the deputy, besides the rent charge Kazakhstan “should receive the payment for commercial launches” conducted by the Russian Aerospace Agency. He pointed out that Russia increases the number of commercial launches every year. According to him, while in 1995 there were no commercial launches, this year 36 commercial launches are expected. According to Nauryzbai, the average profit received by Russia from every commercial launch is $90 million.

Director of the National Aerospace Agency of Kazakhstan (NAKO) Meirbek Moldabekov is also critical about the Russian space programs. According to him, “not a single launch” should be performed from Baikonur “until complete disclosure of all reasons of Russian Raduga satellite failure,” Moldabekov stressed that if he “follows the letter and spirit of the governmental statement,” this means “complete ban of all launches from Baikonur.”

However, according to him, the current conversations about alleged proposal of the Kazakh party about taking of payment from Russia for every commercial launch represent “a position of certain Kazakh specialists.” “While the current agreement with Russia on the rent of Baikonur is effective, no changes are possible,” added Moldabekov.

Meanwhile, the Russian party seems to be concerned about different problems. Russia addressed the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan with the request about permission of two next launches from Baikonur, in particular, the launch of Ukrainian-Russian Okean-O satellite on July 8, and the launch of Progress transport spacecraft on July 14, which is to deliver the necessary cargoes to Mir orbital station.

Public relations service of the Russian Aerospace Agency reported that two spacecraft are already prepared for the launch. Their launch will likely be permitted.

An informed source in the government of Kazakhstan explained that the governmental document of July 6 prohibits only launches of Russian Proton rockets from Baikonur. Initially both next launches were to be performed by the other delivery vehicles.

The documents which were sent to Kazakhstan by the diplomatic mail requested about exception for Okean-O satellite, which is to be launched by Ukrainian Zenit-2 rocket, and Progress transport spacecraft, which is to be launched by Soyuz rocket.

The document stressed that the trajectory of Okean-O satellite is arranged in such a way that the zones of the rocket stages falling are outside of the territory of Kazakhstan. In addition the engines of Zenit-2 and Soyuz work on environmentally friendly kerosene and oxygen. During many years of their operation delivery vehicles of Soyuz series demonstrated the highest reliability, having performed more than 1,500 successful launches, concluded the document.

Thus, despite the failures the Russian rocket programs keep functioning. However it is already evident that their success will primarily depend on the position of Kazakhstan. It is also evident that the failure of Proton will significantly correct the strategy and tactics of the national military industrial complex in provision of higher safety of heavy satellites launching (they can be launched only from Baikonur). Meanwhile advisor to the President of Kazakhstan, first cosmonaut of Kazakhstan Aubakirov already announced that “the failure of Proton-M delivery vehicle on July 5 will damage prestige of the Russian cosmonautics.” In his interview to Kazakhstanskaya Pravda Aubakarov expressed his apprehension that the failure of Proton “might cause undesirable agitation of foreign partners and clients of the Russian Aerospace Agency and Russian rocket corporations.”