Express AM8 launch
A Russian Proton rocket launches the Express AM8 satellite from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: Roscosmos

WASHINGTON — A Proton rocket successfully launched a Russian military communications satellite Dec. 12 in the seventh Proton launch of 2015.

The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 7:19 p.m. Eastern Dec. 12 and its Breeze M upper stage placed the satellite, known as Cosmos 2513, into geostationary orbit about nine hours later. Officials with the Russian Ministry of Defense and Khrunichev, the manufacturer of the Proton, declared the launch a success.

Russian officials did not disclose the satellite’s mission, but outside observers believe the spacecraft is a Garpun communications satellite. The spacecraft is designed to relay data from reconnaissance satellites in low Earth orbit to Russian ground stations.

The launch is the seventh Proton mission of 2015, and the fourth since the Proton returned to flight in August after a May launch failure. One more Proton launch, of the Express AMU1 communications satellite, is scheduled before the end of the year.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...