Proton launches Russian defense comms satellite

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WASHINGTON — Russia’s Proton rocket launched for the first time this year April 18 with a military communications satellite for the federation’s ministry of defense.

Liftoff took place from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:12 p.m. Eastern. Russian state corporation Roscosmos confirmed separation of the satellite from the rocket’s Breeze-M upper stage in its intended orbit approximately 10 hours later.

The federally operated Proton launch, handled by the rocket’s manufacturer Khrunichev, carried the second of four Blagovest satellites designed for internet, television and radio services.

Russia’s ministry of defense said April 19 that the satellite is being controlled from the country’s Titov Main Test and Space Systems Control Centre.

An issue with one of the satellite’s devices delayed the launch from December to February, according to Russian news outlet TASS.

Russian satellite manufacturer ISS Reshetnev built the satellite on its largest Express-2000 platform, the company said.

TASS said another two Blagovest satellites are planned to complete the constellation by 2020, with their construction completed this year.

Proton has five missions this year, four for the Russian government and one commercial dual launch of the Eutelsat 5 West B telecom satellite and Orbital ATK’s first satellite-servicing Mission Extension Vehicle, MEV-1. International Launch Services is handling the commercial mission, scheduled toward the end of the year.