ASTANA/MOSCOW, August 15 (RIA Novosti) – Kazakhstan’s environment minister is “dissatisfied” with the cleanup effort following a Russian space rocket crash last month, the ministry said Thursday.
A Russian Proton-M rocket carrying three Glonass satellites veered off course seconds after blastoff from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur space center on July 2, crashing in a large fireball and leaving behind a cloud of toxic heptyl, amyl and kerosene fuels. Between 500 and 600 tons of heptyl was reportedly on board the craft at the time of the crash.
Kazakh Environment Minister Nurlan Kapparov “expressed dissatisfaction over the results and the pace” of the cleanup operation at the site of the crash, the ministry said in a statement, without providing any details.
The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscomos) has asked for another 15 days to complete the cleanup, the ministry said.
A Roscosmos press service representative told RIA Novosti on Thursday that the second stage of the cleanup was complete, adding that the concentration of toxic substances in the soil was reduced to a fraction of maximum permissible levels.
Russia has now gone ahead with the final stage of the cleanup, which should be over by the end of the current month, the Roscosmos representative said.
The Kazakh government has set up a commission to investigate the accident's aftermath. Kapparov said Thursday that his ministry would continue to closely monitor the situation around the crash site.
A Russian investigation concluded that the root cause of the Proton-M mission failure was the improper installation of the three yaw sensors on the launch vehicle, which caused the vehicle to deviate from its flight path shortly after liftoff.
On Wednesday, International Launch Services Inc. (ILS) said the first launch of a Russian Proton space rocket after the accident would be on September 15. Last Monday, Roscosmos said that as many as five Proton launches could take place before next year.
Proton-M rockets have suffered a string of technical problems and launch failures in recent years. Three Glonass satellites were lost in December 2010 when a Proton-M rocket crashed into the Pacific Ocean, an incident that was subsequently blamed on engineers overloading the rocket with fuel. A control system glitch led to the loss of a Proton-M in 2011, and engine problems caused the failure of another Proton mission in 2012.