|July 15, 2005- The Proton launcher celebrates the 40th anniversary of its first launch on July 16. Initially known as UR-500, the vehicle was originally conceived to serve as both an intercontinental ballistic missile and a space launch vehicle.The first four flights lofted “Proton” satellites, and the vehicle then adopted that name. From the two-stage configuration of its early years, the Proton has grown to the three- and four-stage workhorse of the Russian fleet.
Proton rockets have played a role in many historic events, such as launching interplanetary missions that produced the first samples of the lunar surface to be returned by an unmanned spacecraft, and the first soft landing on the surface of Venus. Proton continues to support the Russian government’s satellite launch requirements, provides vital transportation to the International Space Station, and carries out commercial space launches for International Launch Services.
The Proton vehicle has an incredible launch tempo, having accomplished 315 missions, including 33 for ILS.