A Proton-M Russian booster rocket lifted off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan last night carrying Amazonas, a European telecommunications satellite, into orbit. The satellite was put into orbit and control over it has been transferred to the customer, officials at Russia's Federal Space Agency told RIA.
Built by the European company EADS Astrium, Amazonas is one of the world's most powerful satellites. It is intended for digital television and radio broadcasting, telephone, and broadband Internet services.
The Proton-M booster was designed and manufactured by the Khrunichev Space Center.
The Amazonas satellite, weighing 4,540 kilograms, will cover South America and part of Western Europe, including Spain, Portugal and France.
The contract for the commercial launch was concluded between International Launch Services (ILS), a U.S.-Russian joint venture, which markets globally the Proton and the U.S.-made booster rocket, Atlas. ILS comprises the U.S. company Lockheed Martin and its Russian counterparts, the Khrunichev Center and Energia.
The Proton-M is an upgraded version of the Proton launch vehicle, with improved operational and environmental characteristics. It has a new digital flight control system. Also, it provides an effective solution to the problem of decreasing the size of the landing site for the first stage of the launcher, and ensures that the spent stage has no residual fuels.
The Proton-M's enlarged aerodynamics allow it to transport twice as much payload, using advanced upper stages. The power potential and the multiple restart capability of the Briz-M upper stage make it possible for the vehicle to carry satellites into a wide range of orbits and to launch a group of satellites at once.