MOSCOW, March 10. /TASS/. This year’s first launch of a Proton-M carrier rocket with Express-80 and Express-103 communications satellites from the Baikonur spaceport has been postponed to late May due to problems with the carrier rocket’s components, Khrunichev Space Center Director General Alexei Varochko told TASS on Tuesday.
According to Varochko, quality control tests revealed mismatch of one of the components’ parameters. "In order to ensure proper serviceability and guarantee the implementation of the Khrunichev Center’s liabilities, it was decided to replace the components set, including in the Proton-M carrier rocket, which is kept at the Baikonur space center, to put Express satellites into orbit," he said.
He added that the launch of the carrier rocket would be postponed to late May to have time to carry out routine tests after the replacement of components.
Head of Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin wrote on his Twitter account earlier that the launch of the Express-80 and Express-103 satellites from the Baikonur spaceport was scheduled for March 31. The satellites had been manufactured for three years, since December 2016. Their active service life in orbit is 15 years.
Alfastrakhovanie, an insurance company, said earlier the two satellites had been insured to a sum of ten billion rubles (139.4 million US dollars under the current exchange rate) each for a term of one year after the launch.
The Express-80 and Express-103 satellites have been built on order from the Russian Satellite Communications Company and are based on the standardized Express-1000 medium-class platform developed by the Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems Company. The European firm Thales Alenia Space traditionally acts as a partner of the Russian Satellite Communications Company for the supply of payloads for new satellites. The payload will include 38 (for the Express-80) and 37 (for the Express-103) basic transponders for operation in the C-, Ku-and L-bands.