Update: Roscosmos confirmed at 11:49 a.m. Eastern, July 31, the successful separation of both spacecraft. The launch was the 20th consecutive success for Proton.
WASHINGTON — The first Proton launch of the year took place July 30 carrying two satellites for the Russian Satellite Communications Company.
Proton lifted off at 5:25 p.m. Eastern from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on an 18-hour mission to deploy the geostationary satellites, Express-80 and Express-103, according to Roscosmos.
The launch was originally scheduled for March, but was delayed to replace problematic components on the rocket. A one-day delay preceded the launch to allow for additional checks on the vehicle, according to Proton manufacturer Khrunichev.
Russia planned three Proton launches for 2020 at the beginning of the year. It’s not clear if or how the three-month delay will impact the schedule of future missions.
RSCC’s Express-80 satellite is scheduled to separate from Proton’s Briz-M upper stage 17 hours and 59 minutes after liftoff. The satellite carries 20 transponders in Ku-band, 16 in C-band and two in L-band.
The Express-103 satellite is scheduled to separate 18 hours and 17 minutes after liftoff. It carries the same number of C- and Ku-band transponders as Express-80, plus a single L-band transponder.
Russian satellite manufacturer ISS Reshetnev built the spacecraft using payloads supplied by Thales Alenia Space. The satellites are are designed to support internet connectivity and television and radio broadcasts across Russia and some neighboring countries. The launch, as is customary for Russian satellite operators, was handled by Khrunichev, not International Launch Services.
RSCC has two more satellites, Express-AMU3 and Express-AMU7, scheduled to launch in 2021 on another Proton rocket. The state-owned company is also planning a network of four Express satellites in highly elliptical orbits that would extend coverage deep into the Arctic Circle.