BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan, April 7, 2001 – The first vehicle in the Proton M series successfully lifted off at 7:47 a.m. Moscow time today carrying a satellite for the Russian government.

The Ekran-M satellite was successfully separated from the rocket’s Breeze M upper stage into geostationary orbit about 7 hours later, rounding out the mission for launch vehicle builder Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center.

Proton M is the upgraded version of Khrunichev’s highly reliable Proton K launch vehicle, featuring more powerful engines, structural enhancements to support the increased lift capability and a state-of-the-art digital guidance system. The Proton M was teamed with the flight-tested Breeze M upper stage, also built by Khrunichev. Together the upgrades provide enhanced performance, greater payload volume and increased mission design flexibility.

“Congratulations to Khrunichev on this successful first Proton M/Breeze M flight,” said Mark Albrecht, president of International Launch Services (ILS), the Lockheed Martin-Khrunichev-Energia space transportation partnership. “By taking an evolutionary approach and phasing in the upgrades, our partner has demonstrated increased capability while minimizing risk to reliability.”

The Proton M/Breeze M combination is the latest addition to Khrunichev’s and ILS’ launch vehicle offerings. “With its additional lift capability, the Proton M/Breeze M is the perfect complement to our Lockheed-Martin-built Atlas family and the Atlas III version that was successfully flown for the first time last May,” Albrecht said. “Customers can be assured of timely access to space with these two vehicles available for launches and mutual backup.”

ILS is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services and Lockheed Khrunichev Energia International. It provides launch services to customers worldwide on both the American Atlas and the Russian Proton rocket families, including technical, management and marketing expertise.

ILS was formed in 1995. It offers the broadest range of launcher products in the world along with the highest reliability in the industry. The three-stage Proton and the Breeze M upper stage are produced by Khrunichev at its factory near Moscow. An alternative fourth stage, the Block DM, is built by RSC Energia, also near Moscow. The Atlas rockets and their Centaur upper stages are built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company-Astronautics Operations at facilities in Denver, Colo.; Harlingen, Texas; and San Diego, Calif.

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