Proton rocket blasts off with Russian Express A1R satellite
Posted: June 10, 2002 @ 0115 GMT
Updated: 1255 GMT

  Proton Proton Proton Proton rocket and Express A1R arrived at the launch pad and was erected upright last week. Liftoff occurred just after dawn at Baikonur. Photo: RSCC webcast
A Russian domestic communications craft was successfully trucked into space today atop Proton rocket to replace a sister-satellite that crashed to Earth in a failed launch nearly three years ago.

The Khrunichev Proton rocket launched at 0114 GMT (9:14 p.m. EDT Sunday) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in the Kazakhstan desert. The Express A1R spacecraft took a multi-hour ride to its intended high orbit, deploying from the Energia-built Block DM upper stage at 0758 GMT (3:58 a.m. EDT), officials said.

The satellite takes the place of Express A1, which was destroyed minutes after liftoff in October 1999 when the Proton rocket launching it suffered an engine malfunction due to poor workmanship.

Express A1R becomes the third and last of the next-generation Express A series to reach orbit, after two successful launches in 2000. A third-generation Express AM is now in the works, the Russian Satellite Communications Company said in a statement.

The Express A1R spacecraft will guide itself into a circular geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above Earth. There it will appear to hover above a point on the equator at 40 degrees East longitude, or over eastern Africa.

The craft's 12 C-band and five Ku-band transponders will handle television and radio broadcasting services, as well as mobile telephony, data transmission, video conferencing and high-speed Internet.

The 5,700-pound satellite will operate in orbit for at least 7 years.

An artist's concept of an Express-A series satellite in space. Photo: Intersputnik
The spacecraft bus was manufactured by NPO-PM of Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Alcatel Space of France furnished the communications payload aboard Express A1R.

Officials say that the Express A fleet represents an effort to renovate Russia's aging communications satellite system that can no longer handle the communications traffic in Russia and surrounding regions.

The Russian Satellite Communications Company and the Intersputnik organization will both use parts of Express A1R's capacity and capabilities, splitting the satellite's services between the Russian government and the commercial market.

The next scheduled Proton launch is targeted for on June 22 when the Echostar 8 direct-to-home TV broadcasting satellite will be lofted into orbit. The mission will be carried out by International Launch Services, the joint American-Russian venture that globally markets Atlas and Proton rockets.

After that, the next mission for ILS is the inaugural flight of the Atlas 5 rocket, currently slated for July 29 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The ultimate Apollo 11 DVD
This exceptional chronicle of the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission features new digital transfers of film and television coverage unmatched by any other.

More DVDs
The first in a series of space DVDs is now available from the Astronomy Now Store. Relive shuttle Columbia's March flight to refurbish the Hubble Space Telescope in spectacular DVD quality.

The Apollo 14 Complete Downlink DVD set (5 discs) contains all the available television downlink footage from the Apollo 14 mission. A two-disc edited version is also available.