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Proton rockets to be used until 2025

The next launch of a Proton-M is planned for June 20, but may be postponed

MOSCOW, May 19. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia will not stop using Proton-M rockets until 2025, a space industry source told ITAR-TASS on Monday.

Up to 130 Proton rockets might be manufactured over the period, he added.

Former Roscosmos (Federal Space Agency) head Vladimir Popovkin said Proton rockets would not be launched after 2020. "However, the situation is such that Protons surely will be used ip to 2025," the source said.

Since 2001, 82 Proton launches have been carried out, and 74 of them (approximately 90%) were successful. Twenty five rockets (about 30%) were launched within the federal space program and the rest 57 (about 70%) under the contract with International Launch Services, the joint Russian-American company which has the exclusive right for marketing and commercial use of Protons and the promising missile system Angara. Out of the eight unsuccessful launches, five were within the federal space program, and three under the contract with International Launch Services.

For comparison, more than 70 European Arian rockets have been launched since 1996, and only one launch failed. On June 4, 1996, the rocket broke up 38 seconds after the takeoff because of incorrect onboard software operation.

Last Friday, on May 16, a Proton-M with the Express-AM4R communication satellite launched from Baikonur failed to carry the satellite to the designated orbit and burned up with the satellite in the atmosphere, supposedly because of malfunction of the third stage engines. An interdepartmental commission is investigating the case and will announce its work results on June 10.

The next launch of a Proton-M is planned for June 20, but may be postponed.

The last Proton launch failure occurred on June 2, 2013, when a minute after the liftoff, the space vehicle with three Russian Glonass-M navigation satellites fell within the territory of the Baikonur cosmodrome, 2.5 km away from the launch complex. About 600 tons of propellant components were in the rocket at the moment. Most of it burned up in an explosion.There were no casualties and no damage on the ground. The loss of the satellites was estimated at 4.4 billion rubles ($126.5 million). The failure was caused by incorrect installation of equipment during the assembly work in November 2011. Later after the accident, Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin was removed from office.

The lost Express-AM4R satellite was the most advanced telecommunications satellite used by Russia, designed to provide affordable Internet access to people in remote parts of the country.