A Proton booster rocketed away from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazaskhtan Wednesday with a Eutelsat television broadcasting craft and the satellite industry’s first commercial in-space servicing vehicle. The successful launch marked the first commercial Proton mission under the auspices of International Launch Services in more than two years.
A Russian Proton rocket lifted off at 1017 GMT (6:17 a.m. EDT) Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodorme in Kazakhstan. After a marathon 16-hour-long launch sequence, the Proton and its Breeze M upper stage will deploy the Eutelsat 5 West B video broadcast satellite and a robotic satellite servicing payload aiming to attempt the first-ever docking in geosynchronous orbit.
Joining other established commercial geostationary satellite operators looking at fleets of communications platforms in low Earth orbit, Eutelsat announced Thursday it will launch a small testbed next year as a precursor to a potential network of data relay craft flying a few hundred miles above the planet.
A pair of ViaSat and Eutelsat communications satellites — one to broadcast unparalleled high-speed Internet from space, and another to connect the Asia-Pacific — streaked into space Thursday from French Guiana atop an Ariane 5 rocket, setting records for the heaviest and most valuable commercial payload ever put into orbit.