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Baikonur Proton launches to be resumed when damages claims met-1

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ASTANA, October 5 (RIA Novosti) - Proton launches from the Baikonur space center, suspended following a crash on September 6, can be resumed when Kazakhstan damages claims are met, said a Kazakh emergencies spokesman.

Viktor Khrapunov, the Kazakh emergency situations minister, earlier said the damage estimate could come to over $8 million.

The ministry said the issue was discussed at a Kazakh governmental commission session held on Thursday.

The ministry statement also said the commission decided that "the ban on Proton launches from Baikonur" should be lifted when Russia takes further environmental protection measures and makes payments for the "excessive pollution of the environment" following the crash.

A Proton rocket will launch three global navigation Glonass satellites October 25 from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, the system's manufacturer said Thursday.

Nikolai Testoyedov, general director of the Reshetnev Applied Mechanics Production Association, said the launch will go ahead despite a recent Proton-M rocket crash.

On September 6, the Proton-M rocket, with a Japanese satellite onboard, was launched from the Baikonur space center. However, engine malfunction and second-stage separation failure led to its crash 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan with almost 219 metric tons of toxic fuel on board.

The incident was the 6th Russian rocket to crash after taking off from Baikonur. Preliminary estimates say the crash was caused by a thrust steering mechanism failure.

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

Astana and Moscow earlier decided to suspend Proton-M launches from Baikonur until the cause of the accident becomes clear.

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.

A joint meeting of the Russian and Kazakh governmental commissions is scheduled for October 8, 2007.

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