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    PROTON-M ROCKET LAUNCHES W-3A COMMUNICATION SATELLITE FROM BAIKONUR

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    MOSCOW, March 16, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - The first commercial launch of a Pronton-M Russian carrier rocket in 2004 occurred at 2:06 a.m., Moscow time. The rocket, carrying a W-3A European communication satellite, was successfully launched from the Baikonur launching site, reported Alexander Bobrinev, an official spokesman for the Khrunichev Center.

    Soon after the launch, the W-3A satellite successfully separated from the rocket and continued its flight to its targeted orbit with Briz-M Russian booster rockets. The W-3A is planned to separate from the Briz-M at 11:16 a.m., Moscow time, the Federal Space Agency reported.

    The W-3A satellite was built by Astrium and is intended to ensure communications, direct television broadcasting and Internet access for private clients. The service zone of the satellite encompasses Europe, the Middle East, Turkey and northeastern Africa. The satellite was built on the modern Eurostar-3000 platform. Its mass is 4,250 kilograms and it has an estimated service life of 12 years.

    The total cost of the satellite is about 250 million euros. "This is a very expensive device, especially its insurance, because the W-3A is a new type of satellite and this was the first time one has been launched," said the vice president of International Launch Services (ILS), Len Dest. This joint venture includes Lockheed Martin and its Russian partners: Khrunichev Center and Energia Space Rocket Corporation.

    The ILS promotes Proton (Russian) and Atlas (American) carrier rockets on the world market.

    Eutelsat, a French company, owns the satellite. "Presently, the W-3A is the biggest and most technically perfect satellite in the company's space group. The satellites service such world famous clients as the Reuters News Agency, Volkswagen and the Italian Civil Aviation Board," said Eutelsat director Julian Beretta. "In comparison to the older satellites, the W-3A has twice as large capacity. It is equipped with 38 Ku-range transponders and 2 Ka-range transponders."

    Presently, Eutelsat operates 23 satellites, 20 of which it owns. The Hot Berd and Euro Berd satellites service about 1,250 television channels and 700 radio stations, which are used by 107 million people in practically all of Europe, Africa and Australia, a large part of southern Africa, and eastern North America.

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