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Kazakhstan launches its first satellite

The Central Asian nation of 15 million is home to the world's largest space centre, the Baikonur cosmodrome.

india Updated: Jun 18, 2006 08:39 IST

Kazakhstan sent its first satellite into space on Sunday in the oil-rich ex-Soviet republic's first step toward fulfilling its ambitions to join the elite club of space-exploring nations.

The Central Asian nation of 15 million is home to the world's largest space centre, the Baikonur cosmodrome.

It has been leasing the Soviet-built facility to Russia, but now Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev wants his nation to build its own space industry.

The Kazakh government's ambition is fueled by its post-Soviet economic success, pumped up by oil-dollars.

Russian President Vladimir Putin joined Nazarbayev at Baikonur to watch the early morning launch of KazSat 1 -- a geostationary satellite designed to provide TV broadcast and communications for Kazakhstan, three other Central Asia nations -- Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan - and part of Russia.

The two leaders watched the launch from an observation platform about 3 kilometres from the launch pad.

After the rocket's fiery tail disappeared into the sky, which was just turning pink ahead of dawn, they left in a car without making comments.

The satellite, built by Russia's Khrunichev design centre and reported to be worth USD 100 million , was launched aboard a Russian Proton-K carrier rocket.

The launch was initially scheduled for December 2005 but was postponed due to technical problems.

"Everything went according to plan and it gives us hope that the work of the first Kazakh satellite will be successful as well," said Igor Panarin, a spokesman for the Russian space agency.