Proton Rocket Puts Israeli, Russian Satellites in Orbit

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PARIS — A Russian Proton rocket placed an Israeli commercial telecommunications satellite and a Russian data-relay spacecraft into geostationary orbit Dec. 12, with both satellites reported healthy after separation from the Proton’s Breeze-M upper stage.

Both satellites are based on Russian prime contractor ISS Reshetnev’s Express-1000 spacecraft structure, with payload contributions by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy.

Krasnoyarsk-based Reshetnev won the Amos 5 contract with Israeli satellite fleet operator Spacecom in 2008 with a bid valued at $157 million, including the satellite’s construction and launch. It represented one of the first non-Russian contract wins for Reshetnev, which has teamed with Thales Alenia Space on numerous satellites for Russia’s domestic satellite communications market.

Tel Aviv-based Spacecom will operate the Amos 5 satellite at 17 degrees east in geostationary orbit to expand its commercial business, especially with a C-band beam covering a wide swath of Africa.

Amos 5 carries 18 C-band transponders — 14 broadcasting at 72 megahertz and four at 36 megahertz — and 18 72-megahertz Ku-band transponders. Spacecom, whose Amos 2 and Amos 3 satellites operate at 4 degrees west, said the Amos 5’s capacity was more than 55 percent sold before launch.

In a Dec. 12 statement, Spacecom Chief Executive David Pollack said the addition of Amos 5 “further transforms Spacecom into a leading multi-regional satellite operator … as we prepare to bring our reliable high-quality services to Africa. The satellite will offer excellent coverage and ready capacity to a rapidly growing region.”

Spacecom had leased the former AsiaSat 2 satellite, owned by AsiaSat of Hong Kong, and moved it to the 17-degree slot in early 2010 to prepare the market for Amos 5. AsiaSat 2 was nearing retirement.

Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, has been one of the fastest-growing markets for commercial satellite telecommunications in recent years. More satellites are on their way there, prompting some industry officials to express concern about a future oversupply of satellite bandwidth.

The Loutch 5A data-relay satellite will operate at 16 degrees west in geostationary orbit. Russian government officials will use the spacecraft to assure continued video and data links with the international space station, as well as data links to satellites in low Earth orbit. Loutch 5A carries six transponders in S- and Ku-band, according to Thales Alenia Space.