Proton Successfully Launches Russian Telecom Satellite

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PARIS — Russia’s heavy-lift Proton rocket on Oct. 22 successfully launched the Express-AM6 telecommunications satellite in the vehicle’s second successful flight since its grounding following a May failure.

Russia’s Roscosmos space agency and the Express-AM6 owner, Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) of Moscow, confirmed that the satellite was healthy and in the intended orbit.

It was RSCC’s Express-AM4R satellite that was destroyed in the May failure, following the August 2011 loss, due to another Proton failure, of the Express-AM4 satellite.

Given RSCC’s recent record of satellite losses, RSCC Chief Executive Yuri Prokhorov said the Express-AM6 launch was perhaps “the most-anticipated event of the year in the satellite industry.”

Express-AM6 will be operated at 53 degrees east longitude to serve western Russia, the Urals, western Siberia and parts of the Middle East, Europe and Africa. It was built by ISS Reshetnev of Russia, with the 72-transponder C-, Ku-, Ka- and L-band transponder payload, featuring 11 antennas, provided by MDA Corp. of Canada. The satellite’s total throughput capacity, RSCC said, is 2.7 gigahertz.

Given the failures it has had to contend with, RSCC’s expansion plan has become as much of a catch-up program as one of extending its reach. The government-owned company expects to launch the Express-AM7 and -AM8 satellites in early 2015, also on Proton vehicles.

Proton’s relatively slow — compared to previous failures — return to full service following the May failure has produced a backlog of Russian government and commercial customers, the latter managed through International Launch Services of Reston, Virginia.

The next ILS launch, tentatively set for late November, is scheduled to be the Astra 2G telecommunications satellite owned by fleet operator SES of Luxembourg.