US-Russian International Launch Services (ILS) joint venture plans to carry out 12 commercial missions this year, with heavy Russian Proton vehicle designated for 5 launches, press service of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center (S.R.P.S.C.), which is a Russian partner in ILS, told RIA Novosti. "The launches ordered will be worth $1 billion in 2002. By the end of 2004, the company will carry out some $3 billion worth of launch services," the Khrunichev S.R.P.S.C. said in a statement. "Contracts concluded for 2002 provide for launches of both scientific spacecraft and telecommunications satellites," the Khrunichev S.R.P.S.C. added. The Russian Proton launch vehicle was designed by the Khrunichev Center's engineers and has been popular on the international launch services market. 96 percent of its 280 latest launches were successful, with the last 20 liftoffs going off totally error-free, the company sources said. Another Russian partner in the ILS joint venture is Russian Research and Production Company Energia, based in Korolev outside Moscow. The US partner is Lockheed Martin Corp. Lockheed Martin is to provide US Atlas launch vehicle for the other seven launches scheduled for this year, Khrunichev S.R.P.S.C sources said.
As November 4 approaches (on this day, Russia and Belarus are to sign union programs), disputes between supporters and opponents of the integration become increasingly heated