Proton-M Russia’s heavy-lift rocket put a government communications satellite into orbit on Thursday in the final launch of the year for the Russian space industry.
The rocket blasted off on December 26 at 2:50 p.m. Moscow time from the Baikonur spaceport in a televised broadcast. Its payload, a 3.4-ton Express-AM5 communications satellite, was successfully placed into a parking orbit nine minutes later.
Later Thursday night a Briz-M upper stage placed the satellite in a geostationary orbit during a subsequent burn. At 00:12 a.m. of December 27 the satellite successfully separated from the upper stage.
The Express-AM5 will provide communications services for the Russian government as well as digital television and radio signals and two-way VSAT transmissions.
It was designed by Krasnoyarsk-based Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems, which also oversaw the production of Russia’s GLONASS navigation satellites.
The satellite will be operated by a communications company owned by the Russian government and has an expected lifetime of 15 years.
A second satellite in the series, the Express-AM6, is scheduled for launch next year.
The future of Proton launches at Baikonur was thrown into doubt earlier this year after a Proton exploded in July raining hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals on the Kazakh countryside. Moscow and Astana signed a three-year roadmap earlier this week on the joint use of Baikonur, the only launch site for Proton.