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    Proton rocket to launch three Glonass satellites Oct. 25

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    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.

    MOSCOW, October 4 (RIA Novosti) - 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, a Proton-M rocket, with a Japanese satellite onboard, was launched from the Baikonur space center. However, 139 seconds into its flight it experienced engine malfunction and second-stage separation failure, and crashed 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan.

    Russian experts cleared the area where the rocket's booster came down, after tests revealed that the toxic fuel concentrations in soil samples exceeded permitted levels. The second-stage crash site in the central Kazakh steppe was also polluted by the Proton's highly toxic heptyl fuel.

    Astana and Moscow decided to suspend Proton-M launches from Baikonur, but Commander of the Space Forces Col. Gen. Vladimir Popovkin said Proton-M launches would be resumed after Russia compensated Kazakhstan for any environmental damage caused by the crash.

    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.

    Russia is developing a global satellite navigation system, Glonass, a Russian version of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), which is designed for both military and civilian use, and allows users to identify their positions in real time.

    A total of 9.88 billion rubles ($380 million) was allocated for Glonass from the federal budget in 2007, and 4.7 billion ($181 million) in 2006. The system is to become fully operational by 2008.

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