Proton rocket lifts over 400 spacecraft in orbit in 45 years

The Proton rocket has been lifted in orbit more than 400 Russian and foreign spacecraft.

Updated: Jul 17, 2010, 21:41 PM IST

Moscow: Over 45 years of its
irreproachable service the heavy carrier rocket Proton,
designed by the Khrunichev State Space Research and Production
Centre, has lifted in orbit more than 400 Russian and foreign

Its "service record" includes the Kosmos, Ekran, Raduga,
Gorizont satellites, the Moon, Mars, Venus and Comet Halley
exploration vehicles, the Salyut and Mir manned orbital
stations, also the heavy specialised modules Kvant, Kvant-2,
Kristall, Spektr, Priroda that were part of them, as well as
the Russian modules Zarya and Zvezda of the International
Space Station (ISS).

According to spokesman for the Khrunichev centre
Alexander Bobrenev, "The Proton carrier rocket demonstrates a
record-high coefficient of launches and reliability, 23
launches over the past 22 months and all 23 successful."

He recalled that "on July 16, 1965 the first launch of a
two-stage version of Proton`s prototype - RN UR-500 - was
carried out. Starting from the first test flights the rocket
instead of the traditional ballast lifted to near-Earth orbits
the heavy spacecraft Proton for the research of cosmic
radiation. Later, after this news appeared in the media, the
Proton name was given to the rocket itself and all its
modifications and modernised versions.

After the first four launches of Proton were carried out
for accelerating the tests in the two-stage version, it was
decided to create on its basis a heavy-class space booster
with increasing its lift-off mass to 700 tonnes. It is used in
two variants, a three-stage and four-stage version where the
upper stage plays the role of the fourth stage. The rocket`s
flights in its modern version started in 1967.

The modernised Proton-M carrier rocket is currently used
for launching payloads in space within the framework of the
Federal Space Programme and commercial programmes.

The first commercial launch of the Proton rocket was
carried out in April 1996. The launch of the Echostar-15
spacecraft carried out on July 10, 2010, was the 61st
commercial Launch of Proton and its 358th flight, the
Khrunichev Centre specified.

In several years the heavy carrier rocket is to be
replaced by a new one, the Angara that is also designed by the
Khrunichev Centre. Unlike Proton that worked with the
poisonous heptyl, the heavy version of the Angara rocket, the
same as its lighter analogues, will use environmentally
friendly fuel.

The first launch of a light version of the Angara rocket
from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, according to head of the Russian
Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) Anatoly Perminov, is expected
to be carried out in 2012.