MOSCOW, April 9 1996 - A combined Russian, American and European team made space history today with the first launch of a Western satellite on a Russian rocket. The Proton launch vehicle carried the ASTRA 1F satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit early this morning with a dazzling liftoff at 5:09 a.m. (7:09 p.m EDT, April 8) from Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Launch services were provided by International Launch Services (ILS), a joint venture company of Lockheed Martin Corporation and Russian companies Khrunichev and RSC Energia, on the Proton launch vehicle, which is manufactured by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center at its facilities in Moscow. The satellite will be operated by Societe Europienne des Satellites (SES), a Luxembourg-based company that is a prime provider of direct-to-home television and radio services to Europe.
"Lockheed Martin Corporation is extremely proud to be a part of this historic occasion and share in the excitement of a successful launch with our customer SES, our Russian partners and Hughes," said Dr. Vance Coffman, Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer and Co-Chairman, ILS Board of Directors. "This is the first of what we know will be many mission successes for the commercial Proton and its customers."
Proton has served as the primary heavy-lift vehicle for Russian unmanned space systems since the mid-1960s. Used in more than 230 launches, Proton has an outstanding reliability record. Proton is capable of placing approximately 20,900 kg into low-Earth orbit or 3,900 kg into geosynchronous orbit.
"This is a very proud day for Khrunichev and the entire Russian space industry" said Anatoly Kiselev, Director General of Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and Co-Chairman, ILS Board of Directors. "This first successful launch of a Western satellite proves that Proton is and will continue to be a strong contender in the commercial markeplace." The satellite was built by Hughes Space and Communications Company at facilities in El Segundo, CA. A combined ILS, SES, Hughes and Russian team has been readying the satellite since its arrival in Baikonur on February 14. ASTRA 1F will become the sixth spacecraft in SES's ASTRA system, all copositioned at 19.2 deg east.
"The ASTRA 1F satellite launch campaign is the culmination of years of planning and cooperation among ILS, our Russian partners and our customer SES," said Charles H. Lloyd, President -Proton Division of ILS. "We have laid the groundwork for many more successful commercial Proton missions. We now wish the ASTRA 1F a long and successful on-orbit lifetime."
ILS was formed in 1995 to jointly market the Proton and American-built Atlas launch vehicle. ILS, through its affiliate Lockheed Khrunichev Energia International, Inc., presently holds five commercial Proton launch contracts for a total backlog of 16 launch commitments. The combined ILS Proton and Atlas backlog is in excess of $2.5 billion.