Kazakh dispute with Russia Delays MetOp-B Launch


A dispute between Russia and Kazakhstan over debris from Soyuz rocket lower stages has forced an indefinite postponement of the launch of Europe's MetOp-B meteorological satellite.

The polar-orbiting weather satellite had been scheduled for a May 23 launch atop a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Russia and Kazakhstan have long had disagreements about rocket lower stages dumping on Kazakh territory, sometimes with toxic fuel. Past arguments have ended with Russia offering cash payments or other compensation to the Kazakh government.

MetOp-B is a twin of the MetOp-A spacecraft launched in 2006. Although MetOp-A is in good health, Europe's meteorological satellite organization, Eumetsat, and the European Space Agency (ESA), wanted MetOp-B ready and in orbit by the end of this year. The identical MetOp-C satellite is currently scheduled for launch in 2016.

MetOp-B was shipped to Baikonur from the Toulouse France production facility of Astrium Satellites in early March. Officials said preparations at the Baikonur Cosmodrome would be stopped and the satellite would be placed in safe storage at the launch site.

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