Kazakhstan Reaches Space in First Satellite Launch

Kazakhstan's first nationalsatellite was deployed into orbit after a marathon launch overnight Saturday bya Proton rocket. Once operational, the craft will link remote reaches ofcentral Asia through broadcasting and telephone services.

The KazSat 1 spacecraftlaunched aboard a Proton rocket at 6:44 p.m. EDT (2244 GMT) from the BaikonurCosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Proton booster's three core stages each worked asadvertised to place KazSat 1 and its Block DM upper stage in a preliminaryparking orbit.

The Block DM then firedmultiple times to raise its orbital altitude and lower its inclination beforereleasing its payload at 1:32 a.m. EDT (0532 GMT), according to officialsquoted by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Reported to cost about $100million, KazSat 1 will begin a 12-year mission to serve customers in thebroadcasting and fixed telephony industries. The spacecraft carries 12 Ku-bandtransponders designed to provide services to users across Kazakhstan,Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and parts of Russia.

KazSat 1 was built by theRussian company Khrunichev, which also manufactured the Proton rocket corevehicle used for the launch. The contract for the construction and launch ofthe satellite was signed in January 2004. A year later, the governments ofRussia and Kazakhstan agreed to a broad agreement that outlined further detailsof the project and other space cooperation plans between the two countries.

Russian President VladimirPutin and President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan both viewed the blastofffrom a nearby location after a day of diplomatic talks.

Russia is also providingaid to Kazakhstan by helping to develop ground stations, control centers, andin personnel training.

The two nations plan toagain collaborate for the launch of the KazSat 2 satellite. Additionalcooperative missions could also be announced in the future.

Russia's primary launchsite for human spaceflight and geostationary launches - the Baikonur Cosmodrome- is located in the steppes of central Kazakhstan. Since the fall of the SovietUnion left Baikonur inside Kazakh territory 15 years ago, Russia has leasedrights to use the installation from Kazakhstan.

This weekend's launch wasthe first for the Proton rocket family since a failure in February stranded anArab communications satellite in a useless orbit. Investigators found faultwith the Breeze M upper stage's oxidizer supply system, which could have beenblocked by a foreign object near a nozzle of the booster hydraulic pump. Theblockage caused the main engine to shut down prematurely during the stage'ssecond burn.

The next flight of theProton launcher is planned for late July, at the earliest, with the EuropeanHot Bird 8 direct-to-home broadcasting satellite. The mission will be the firstto include a Breeze M upper stage since February's failure.

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Spaceflightnow.com Editor

Stephen Clark is the Editor of Spaceflight Now, a web-based publication dedicated to covering rocket launches, human spaceflight and exploration. He joined the Spaceflight Now team in 2009 and previously wrote as a senior reporter with the Daily Texan. You can follow Stephen's latest project at SpaceflightNow.com and on Twitter.