MOSCOW, February 7 (RIA Novosti) – Two Russian telecommunications satellites have been delivered to the Baikonur space launch facility in southern Kazakhstan in preparation for a mid-March launch, space officials said Friday.
The satellites, built by the Reshetnev Company in cooperation with France’s Thales Alenia Space, will provide direct-to-home television and radio coverage across Russia.
Prior to launch, the pair will be mated with a Proton-M rocket, built in Moscow and delivered Thursday by rail to Baikonur, Russia’s Roscosmos space agency said.
The satellites, each with an expected lifetime of 15 years and weighing nearly two tons, will be operated by the Russian Satellite Communications Company.
A Proton rocket carrying three Russian GLONASS navigation satellites in July crashed shortly after launch, spreading 600 tons of toxic propellants around Kazakhstan’s countryside.
The estimated $89 million cost of the cleanup effort strained relations between the two former Soviet nations. Kazakhstan has in the past called on Moscow to phase out Proton launches due to environmental impact of its caustic propellants.
Kazakhstan space agency deputy chairman Meirbek Moldabekov on Thursday said there would be 10 launches of the Proton rocket this year, despite an earlier planned manifest of 14. He did not cite a reason for the reduction.
The launch of the satellites in mid-March will be the first for the Proton this year.