ILS Proton launches AsiaSat-9, completes 2017 commercial manifest

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BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan — International Launch Services completed its third and final 2017 commercial Proton mission today, launching the AsiaSat-9 telecommunications satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Proton lifted off at 12:52 a.m. local time, performing first, second and third stage burns as planned, followed by five firings of the Breeze-M upper stage. The total mission lasted nine hours and 13 minutes.

ILS began launches this year in June after a year-long hiatus, half of which was spent investigating the cause of a premature second-stage engine shut down during the Intelsat-31 mission in 2016 (for which the launcher’s Breeze-M upper stage compensated to complete the mission without incident), and the other half spent replacing second- and third-stage engines made with an incorrect solder material by manufacturer Khrunichev. Though the delays pushed out mission schedules, ILS has hailed the processes as evidence of Russia’s reaffirmed commitment to quality assurance.

While ILS’s year is complete, Russia’s Proton rocket has one additional federal mission planned for December. Proton has launched four times this year — three commercial and one government.

AsiaSat said Sept. 29 that the Hong Kong-based satellite operator first gained signals from AsiaSat-9 seven hours and 54 minutes after launch. The tri-band C-, Ku- and Ka-band satellite will cover the Asia-Pacific region, including Indonesia, Myanmar and Mongolia. AsiaSat said the satellite will undergo a few weeks of in-orbit testing prior to serving customers.

Built by Space Systems Loral in Palo Alto, California, AsiaSat-9 is a replacement for AsiaSat-4, which launched in April 2003.

AsiaSat said earlier this month that the operator is close to ordering a small high-throughput satellite dubbed AsiaSat-10, which will have a major focus on China.