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    PROTON-M ROCKET TO LIFT OFF FROM BAIKONUR MARCH 16

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    MOSCOW, MARCH 13 (RIA Novosti) - A Proton-M rocket is to lift off the Baikonur space center at 2.06 a.m. Moscow time March 16, subsequently orbiting the W-3A commercial US communications satellite. This was disclosed by Alexander Bobrenev, chief of the Khrunichev spacecraft center's press center.

    In his words, the Proton-M rocket and its Breeze-M booster were developed and assembled by the Khrunichev spacecraft center.

    The W-3A communications satellite, which was assembled by the Astrium company, relays live TV broadcasts, providing Internet access at the same time. The 4,250-kg W-3A, which will be servicing Europe, the Middle East and North-East Africa, has a 12-year service life.

    The Eutelsat company, which owns the W-3A satellite, has also ordered its launch. The relevant launch contract was signed by the Russian-US International Launch Services (ILS) company, which promotes Russia's heavy-duty Proton rockets, as well as US Atlas rockets, on the global market. The ILS company includes Lockheed-Martin of the United States and the company's Russian partners, i.e. the Khrunichev state spacecraft center and the Energia space-rocket corporation.

    The revamped Proton-M rocket has a greater power-to-weight ratio; its technical specifications have also been enhanced; the Proton's environmental impact has been minimized, as well. The Proton-M rocket features a new guidance system; moreover, its first stages will be falling over smaller territories.

    Besides, the new Russian launcher is more environment-friendly; its first-stage engine completely drains all rocket-propellant tanks.

    Each Proton-M launch vehicle boasts enlarged nose shrouds, thus making it possible to increase payload mass by over 100 percent. Such payloads can be launched with the help of advanced Proton-M boosters.

    The list of such advanced boosters includes the Breeze-M system, which is renowned for its impressive power-to-weight ratio. Moreover, its sustainer engine can be fired more than once. Consequently, the Breeze-M can place specific payloads into numerous preset orbits, orbiting satellite clusters all the same. Each Breeze-M booster makes it possible to master new and unconventional launch concepts, i.e. launching geostationary satellites with the help of highly elliptical orbits.

    The Breeze-M booster makes it possible to orbit six-ton payloads, also placing 3.2-ton payloads into geostationary orbits.

    The Khrunichev center's www.khrunichev.ru web site is to cover this launch live.

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