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Russia to decontaminate Proton-M crash site again

ASTANA, September 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is due to carry out Thursday the third decontamination of the launch site of a Proton-M rocket, which crashed earlier this month, the Kazakh emergencies ministry said.

Russian experts will clear the area where the rocket's booster came down after post-decontamination laboratory tests revealed Wednesday that toxic fuel concentration in 13 of 20 soil samples taken from the site exceeded the maximum allowable concentrations.

Another team will conclude soil remediation at the second stage crash site in the central Kazakh steppe, which was also contaminated following the crash.

On September 6, the Proton-M rocket with a Japanese satellite onboard was launched from the Baikonur space center and 139 seconds into its flight it experienced an engine malfunction and second-stage separation failure, and crashed 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan.

The Proton is a heavy rocket which uses highly toxic heptyl as fuel.

Search teams have surveyed a total of 1,743 square kilometers (1,083 sq miles) of territory around the crash site and found 119 rocket fragments.

Last year, a Russian Dnepr rocket crashed on lift off from Baikonur, after which a special commission was formed to assess the resulting environmental damage. On the basis of its findings, Russia paid Kazakhstan $1.1 million in compensation for the damage.

Astana and Moscow decided to suspend Proton-M launches from Baikonur until the cause of the accident is established.

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