updated 11/24/2009 3:15:10 PM ET 2009-11-24T20:15:10

The delay of a rocket launch from a Russian-leased launch pad in southern Kazakhstan sparked a testy exchange Tuesday between the two ex-Soviet nations' space authorities.

A European communications satellite was due to blast off atop a Proton rocket from the Baikonur launch facility Monday, but was delayed over repeated changes in schedule by Russian space officials, the national space agency of Kazakhstan, Kazcosmos, said in a statement on its Web site.

Kazakh space authorities complain that Russia has failed to respect an accord that lays down conditions of use for Baikonur, which state that Russia has to provide a full annual launch schedule by November for the next year.

Earlier this year, Russia added three unplanned satellite launches, and then lodged a further request in August to for the EutelSat-W7, Kazcosmos said.

"Bearing in mind that the decision-making process in Kazakhstan's government takes a long time and had not been completed, we conveyed that information to the Russian Federal Space Agency," the statement said.

Russia's space agency, Roskosmos, argued that under an agreement with Kazcosmos, receiving government approval should take no longer than 30 days.

"This is not the first time that the launch of a spacecraft has been jeopardized due to circumstances beyond Russia's control," it said in a statement.

Russia's state-controlled Khrunichev spacecraft builder, which built the Proton rocket that is to carry the satellite, also complained about the possible consequences of the launch delay.

"As a result of the postponement, Russia has endured material and reputational damage," it said.

Russia has been renting the Soviet-built Baikonur Cosmodrome from Kazakstan since the Soviet collapse and has a lease on the facility until 2050. It pays an annual rent of $115 million for using the facility.

Kazakh space officials have said they plan to maintain close cooperation in space research with Russia, but ties have been strained in recent years by accidents involving the powerful Proton rocket.

An unmanned rocket filled with toxic fuel crashed in the Kazakh countryside in September 2007, provoking an angry official complaint and a temporary ban on launches from Baikonur.

Russia is hoping to reduce its reliance on Baikonur with the construction of the Vostochny launch facility in the far east. Space officials say the launch pad will be built by 2015 and begin handling all manned space launches in 2020.

The EutelSat-W7 satellite, produced by France's Thales Alenia Space, has been designed to provide telecommunications services to Europe, Russia, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Its launch has been postponed to 8:19 p.m. local time (1419 GMT) on Tuesday.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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