Tuesday, July 13, 1999 Published at 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Crash warning over Mir
Proton debris was spread over a wide area
The Kazakh Government banned launches from its Baikonur cosmodrome last week after a Russian rocket - carrying a communications satellite - blew up soon after lift-off, scattering debris and fuel over a wide area of the Central Asian republic.
Kazakhstan, which leases the cosmodrome to Russia, was furious and demanded compensation. It said the ban on further launches would stay in place until the cause of the rocket failure was identified.
But the Mir space station is in urgent need of supplies - and not just food and water for the three-man crew.
A Progress supply vessel was scheduled to blast off from Baikonur on Wednesday, with equipment essential to maintaining control of the beleaguered craft when it is mothballed in August - after 13 years in orbit.
The head of the Russian Space Agency, Yuri Koptev, says that new navigational equipment must be installed to ensure control of the craft in unmanned flight.
"We must not allow the Mir space station to fly out of control," he said.
"Mir has to be kept safe to the very end. We must provide all the necessary equipment to make sure this happens. Otherwise, Mir could be a danger to the whole world."
Mr Koptev said that, if a supply ship did not take off before 20 July, it could be too late.
At the weekend, the Mir crew located a leak which had caused a minor depressurisation aboard the orbiting station.
The latest launch failure is of concern to the nations involved in the International Space Station because the next phase of the project is due to be launched on board a Proton vehicle in November.