Russian engineers certain about satellite reliability

On Tuesday morning a Proton K carrier rocket brought the Express AM11, a Russian satellite, to geosynchronous orbit as scheduled.

"There is not the slightest doubt about our satellite being able to work there, at a height of 36,000 kilometers, for at least 12 years," Vassily Popov, a leading space vehicle designer, told RIA Novosti on the day of the launch. Mr. Popov works at the Academician Mikhail Reshetnev Scientific Production Association of Applied Mechanics in Zheleznogorsk, a town near Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.

This is the second of five new satellites that Kosmicheskaya Svyaz, a federal state unitary enterprise, commissioned the Siberian enterprise to construct. Scientists from France, Japan and Germany are involved in the production of the satellites.

After the launch, the new satellite will be placed in its permanent orbital slot at 96.5 degrees east longitude, which is approximately above the center of Siberia and allows the satellite to "see" all of Russia.

The first satellite in the series, the Express AM22, was launched on December 29, 2003, also for a 12 year mission. Placed in the same orbit, but above the Urals, it has been reliably serving the interests of Russians and other CIS users, providing them with high-quality digital radio and television programs, the Internet and other communication services.

The designers and producers seek to "maximally increase the length of active service in orbit" of every satellite, the source said.

To achieve this, all devices and systems on board should be reliable and protected from exposure. For example, one of the first geosynchronous satellites created in Siberia, the Gorizont, had a planned service life of three years, but each satellite in the series functioned in orbit for over 11 years.

"Our scientific production association has many similar examples," Mr. Popov pointed out. This does not simply raise business reputation of the producers throughout the world, it also "saves the purchaser money." Taking into account that each launch of a carrier rocket with a satellite costs approximately 600 million rubles ($1 is approximately 29 rubles), an increase in the service life of a satellites from three to ten years reduces costs of its launch over three times.

"Using our and foreign experience we have already started working on space vehicles with a 15 year service life," Mr. Popov said.

The Zheleznogorsk enterprise, which in June 2004 will celebrate its 45th anniversary, produces almost 70% of Russian satellites and has produced over 1,200 satellites.

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