Russo-Kazakh Deal Clears Way for Metop-B Launch

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PARIS — Europe’s Metop-B polar-orbiting meteorological satellite will be launched Sept. 19 aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket operating from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan following the resolution of a dispute between the Russian and Kazakh governments over rocket-segment drop zones, Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium said June 28.

Metop-B had been sent to the Baikonur site in early March to prepare for a May 23 launch aboard a Soyuz rocket, a launch organized by the Starsem venture of France, in which Arianespace is a principal shareholder.

But a long-simmering Kazakh problem with rocket debris along flight paths used for satellites heading into polar orbit stopped this and other launches. The issue was resolved as a result of a bilateral summit between Russian and Kazakh heads of government. It is unclear if Russia made any cash payments to permit launches to resume — Russia pays $115 million per year to Kazakhstan for the use of the sprawling Baikonur complex — or if polar flight paths were modified.

 

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