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Kazakh TV off-air after satellite 'breathing troubles'

Russian sat flop flap sees mass Borat stranglings

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Central Asian ex-Soviet republic Kazakhstan has reportedly lost all domestically controlled satellite TV services due to malfunctions in its sole communications spacecraft.

Kazakh space chief and former cosmonaut Talgat Musabayev said on Monday that the KazSat-1 platform, launched in 2006, was "alive but not breathing well ... It is not responding to commands", according to a Reuters report.

A space agency statement added that "there is a high probability that the satellite will be lost".

Kazakhstan is home to the Baikonur cosmodrone, a major space facility, but this is leased to and run by Russia. KazSat-1 constituted more or less the whole of the Kazakh space programme.

The satellite apparently became unserviceable on June 8, according to Musabayev, with devastating consequences for the nation's broadcasting industry. A number of TV companies have been driven off the air by the higher costs of alternate satellites, though major broadcasters have shifted platform.

Kazakhstan has strong space aspirations, with Kazsat-1 planned as the first of four spacecraft to be orbited by Musabayev's agency before 2020. The initial, now apparently doomed satellite was built and launched by Russia, and run from a Russian ground station, but Musabayev hinted that Kazakhstan may look to other providers in future.

With recent Soyuz re-entry problems casting something of a shadow over the Russian space industry's prowess and foreign-exchange earnings prospects - and with Kazakhstan rich in oil - the press briefing will be unwelcome news in Moscow. ®

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