McLEAN, Va., Jan. 9, 2001 – International Launch Services (ILS) can sell an unlimited number of launches on the Proton rocket, now that the U.S. government has lifted a quota originally imposed in 1993.
The quota – which limited the Proton to 20 launches of U.S.-made satellites to geosynchronous orbit – expired Dec. 31, 2000.
"This is a significant decision for ILS, and one we have worked hard for for a long time," said ILS President Mark J. Albrecht. "The original intent of the quota was to ensure that the Proton entered the marketplace in line with best commercial practices. That objective has been met, and the quota outlived its usefulness."
The U.S.-Russian Launch Trade Agreement, which was signed in September 1993, allowed for the launch of nine western GTO (geosynchronous transfer orbit) satellites by Russian launch vehicles. In 1996, the agreement was amended to allow a total of 16 launches. The quota was raised to 20 in 1999.
"We have a backlog of more than 40 launches over the next few years, with a mix of Atlas and Proton," Albrecht said. "So the lifting of the quota improves our ability to provide launches to our customers, as and when needed.
"Our relationship with Khrunichev is very strong and we are totally committed to the success of the partnership," Albrecht added. "We look forward to selling many more Proton – and soon, Angara – launches."
Alexander Kondratiev, deputy director general of foreign economic relations for Khrunichev, echoed Albrecht's sentiments. "Khrunichev is very pleased with the decision of the U.S. government on ending the quota. It will be a great boost for the development of our joint business, and we look forward to furthering our partnership with ILS."
ILS, based in McLean, Va., is a joint venture stock company established in 1995 to market the Russian-built Proton and the Lockheed Martin-built Atlas rockets to the worldwide satellite launch market. With those vehicles and the recent addition of the Russian Angara rocket, the company currently offers the broadest range of launcher products in the world along with the highest reliability in the industry. ILS is owned by Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services and the Lockheed Khrunichev Energia International joint venture.