Kazakh-Russian Standoff Delays Eumetsat Launch

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PARIS — The Kazakh space agency, Kazcosmos, on May 28 said talks with Russia on permitting Russian rockets to launch into certain trajectories from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome have made no progress in the past month and that no launch date for the barred launches can be set.

The announcement means that Europe’s Metop-B meteorological satellite, which had been scheduled on a May 23 flight of Russia’s Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur site, likely will remain grounded until late July, if not later.

Kazakhstan has protested to Russia that launches into polar orbit carry the rockets over populated Kazakh territories and cannot be allowed without further negotiations. Kazcosmos said authority to launch into the affected areas is not part of Russia’s $115 million annual lease of the Baikonur facility.

The two governments have been negotiating a treaty on acceptable drop zones for rocket stages since 2008.

Europe’s meteorological satellite organization, Eumetsat of Darmstadt, Germany, is planning to launch its MSG-3 satellite in late June as a co-passenger on a European Ariane 5 rocket.

MSG-3 will operate in geostationary orbit. But the teams that will oversee the satellite’s early-orbit operations include some of the same people who would follow Metop-B’s launch. Metop-B would need to wait until mid-July in any event to give these people time to transition from one launch to the other, according to one industry official.