MOSCOW, September 30 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s first successful launch of a Proton-M carrier rocket since a July disaster has successfully put a European telecom satellite into orbit, a spokesman for the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) said.
“The separation of the spacecraft from the Briz-M booster has taken place. Control of the satellite has been handed over to the customer – the operator SES Astra,” the spokesman said.
The six-ton Astra 2E, manufactured in France for the Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES S.A., will provide television and radio broadcasts, as well as mobile and Internet communications for users in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The launch of the Proton-M from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan was the first since a Proton-M rocket carrying three satellites for the Glonass positioning system, Russia’s answer to GPS, crashed in a ball of flames seconds after blasting off on July 2. The reason for the accident was that three sensors in the rocket had been installed upside down, an investigation revealed.
The July disaster strengthened the Russian government’s resolve to revamp the country’s space industry, which has seen a string of failed launches in recent years. A draft of the reform, which proposes to consolidate the 100-plus state-run space industry enterprises into one corporation or half a dozen holdings, was recently filed with the Cabinet and is now under review.