MOSCOW, November 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russia successfully launched late on Wednesday a Proton-M carrier rocket and put an SES Astra 1M satellite into orbit, the Russian space agency said on Thursday.
The rocket lifted off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan at 23:44 p.m. Moscow time (20:44 GMT).
"An Astra 1M satellite has been put into orbit, and control over the spacecraft has been passed to the customer," Roscosmos said in a statement.
International Launch Services Inc (ILS) and SES Satellite Leasing have signed a contract to launch five telecommunications satellites on board Proton-M carrier rockets by the end of 2013.
The Luxemburg-based SES, a global provider of satellite telecommunication services, operates mainly through SES Astra in Europe, SES Americom in North America and SES New Skies in Africa, South America, the Middle East, and parts of Asia.The new satellite will expand the SES satellite group, which currently consists of 36 satellites.
The ASTRA satellite fleet delivers high quality broadcasting to over 117 million European households. International Launch Services is a U.S.-Russian joint venture with exclusive rights for worldwide commercial sales and mission management of satellite launches on Russia's Proton carrier rockets.
The joint venture partners are Space Transport Inc., a privately owned corporation based in the British Virgin Islands, the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, and RSC Energia of Moscow.
The company has conducted over 45 commercial Proton launches since 1996, and has 15 scheduled launches planned through 2010. The Proton vehicle launches both commercial ILS missions and Russian government payloads from the Baikonur space center, which is operated by the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) under lease from Kazakhstan.