Express-AM6 Begins Operations Six Months after Launch

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PARIS — The Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) on April 22 said its large Express-AM6 satellite is fully operational six months after a launch during which the upper stage of its Proton rocket was suspected of underperforming.

Moscow-based RSCC said Express-AM6, carrying a 72-transponder payload using the C-, Ku-, Ka- and L-band frequencies, was ready for service at 53 degrees east and would operate for at least 15 years.

The satellite was built by Russia’s principal telecommunications satellite manufacturer, ISS Reshetnev, and the Russian Radio Research Institute, with payload components provided by MDA Corp. of Canada.

Proton rocket launches the Express-AM6 satellite
Proton rocket launches the Express-AM6 satellite. Credit: Roscosmos

The satellite’s arrival will free up the Express-AM22 satellite, which will be moved to 80 degrees east and permit Russia to maintain an orbital slot it might have had to surrender under international regulatory rules.

RSCC now counts 11 satellites in orbit. The company, which is the larger of two Russian telecommunications satellite fleet operators, is still recovering from Proton failures in the past five years that have slowed its fleet-renewal schedule.

The Oct. 21 Express-AM6 launch appeared to have ended with the underperformance of the Proton’s Breeze-M upper stage. The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, said after the launch that the drop-off point was not the one that was planned, but RSCC never conceded any anomaly.

Reshetnev said after the launch that the satellite might take until July to reach its operating station and commence service but that the satellite was in good health. RSCC said a longer-than-usual time to operation was expected given the satellite’s use of a xenon-electric propulsion system.