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Russia’s Proton-M rocket with European satellite installed on Baikonur launch pad

January 26, 20:39 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The launch of Proton-M ILV / Eutelsat-9B satellite is scheduled for 30 January 2016, at 01:20 Moscow time, marking the first Proton launch this year
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© Oleg Urusov/TASS Archive

MOSCOW, January 26. /TASS/. Russia’s Proton-M carrier rocket with the Eutelsat-9B satellite of the European Space Agency has been installed on the launch pad of the Baikonur cosmodrome, the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center (Proton manufacturer) said in a release received by TASS on Tuesday.

On January 26, the Proton-M space rocket with the Eutelsat-9B satellite was moved to the launch pad area No 200 at the Baikonur cosmodrome and lifted to the vertical position, the Khrunichev Centre reported.

This morning, the Proton-M Integrated Launch Vehicle (ILV) / the Eutelsat-9B spacecraft stack was erected on the launch pad of Area 200. Specialists from Khrunichev and other space industry entities have proceeded with the operations required by on-pad Day 1 schedule, the release says.

The launch of Proton-M ILV / Eutelsat-9B satellite is scheduled for 30 January 2016, at 01:20 Moscow time, marking the first Proton launch this year.

The year 2015 saw eight Proton launches. Both the Proton launch vehicle and Breeze-M upper stage were designed, and are serially produced, at the Khrunichev Space Centre. The modernized Proton-M / Breeze-M upper stage configuration is capable of providing a GTO delivery for payloads with a mass in excess of 6 MT.

The upcoming launch will be performed as part of the long-term Proton M launch services contract signed in October 2015 between the International Launch Services (ILS), a Khrunichev Space Centre subsidiary, and one of the leading international operators, the Paris-based Eutelsat Communications. Over the past 15 years, as many as 11 spacecraft were launched on the Proton LV for the Eutelsat orbital group, Khrunichev said.

Last week, head of Russia’s Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activity Igor Komarov told journalists that the cost of the launch of one Russian Proton-M carrier rocket for foreign customers is about $70 million if they order five launches, "The price is around 70 million (dollars if the order is) for five launches and more", he said.

According to him, the leadership of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre has managed to cut the Proton manufacturing costs by 5-7%, and taking into account last year’s inflation the figure is 15-20%.

The first launch of a Proton rocket in 2016 was originally planned for January 25 but then was postponed until January 28 and then till January 30. The launch of the rocket that is to orbit the Eutelsat 9B satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA) was postponed because the staff of the Khrunichev Centre needed more time to prepare the rocket and upper stage for launch.

The launch of the European spacecraft will be carried out by International Launch Services (ILS). The ILS joint venture was created in 1995 by Russia’s Khrunichev Centre and the American corporation Lockheed Martin. Ten years after that Lockheed Martin withdrew from the partnership, selling the majority stake to a German businessman. In May 2008 the Khrunichev Centre bought the stake and ILS is its subsidiary ever since. The company, based in a suburb of Washington, D.C. - Reston (Virginia), over the past 20 years has carried out more than 80 commercial launches of the Proton carrier rockets from the Baikonur cosmodrome Russia leases from Kazakhstan.

ILS Proton Launch Services utilizes the Proton Breeze-M launch vehicle to launch and orbit commercial spacecraft. The Proton-M/ Breeze-M launcher is the latest evolution of the Proton launch vehicle that dates back to the initial launch in May 1965. The first Proton-M/ Breeze-M rocket was flown for a Russian federal mission in April 2001, and the first commercial Proton-M/ Breeze-M vehicle was flown in December 2002 with the NIMIQ 2 satellite for Telesat. Proton launch vehicles are designed and built by Khrunichev within its facility near Moscow. The Khrunichev facility is home to all engineering, assembly and test functions of the Proton launcher. With the recent consolidation of Russian space enterprises, Khrunichev has direct oversight and control of up to 70% of all Proton rocket manufacturing, including all engine systems. This consolidation directly supports Khrunichev’s ongoing efforts for vertical integration of Proton rocket production and management.

The Eutelsat 9B satellite was built on the order of the French satellite operator Eutelsat S.A. It is manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space. The satellite’s mass is 5,175 kg and service life - 15 years. Eutelsat 9B is a high-capacity Ku-band satellite based on the Eurostar E3000 platform. It is scheduled to be launched to 9° East in 2016. The 50-transponder satellite will take 9° East to a new level of performance, increasing resources by 12 additional transponders. Capacity will be spread across five footprints, with frequency reuse significantly increasing overall bandwidth.

It will be the first launch of the Proton rocket in 2016, the 92nd launch under the ILS programme, the 11th launch with a Eutelsat satellite and the 21st launch with a satellite manufactured by Airbus. The mass of the satellite is nearly 5.2 tonnes and its service life is 15 years.

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