Russian rocket brings U.S. telecom satellite to target orbit

A Proton-M heavy rocket carrying the U.S. telecom satellite EchoStar-16 blasted off Baikonur at 10:31 p.m. Moscow time on Nov. 20, a Federal Space Agency source told Interfax-AVN.

"The launch of a Proton-M rocket with a Briz-M third stage and the U.S. satellite EchoStar-16 from the 200th launch pad of Baikonur was normal," the source said.

EchoStar-16 was delivered to the target orbit and separated from the Briz-M stage.

The Federal Space Agency launched the satellite to order of the U.S. EchoStar Corporation. "The EchoStar satellite was made by the U.S. company S/S Loral for rendering telecommunication and television services in the United States," the source said.

"The EchoStar-16 satellite successfully separated from the third stage. Control of the satellite will be handed over to the client," he said.

Meanwhile, Russian Aerospace Defense Forces representative Col. Alexei Zolotukhin told Interfax-AVN, "Aerospace Defense Forces specialists started to retrieve the Briz-M stage from the EchoStar-16 satellite's target orbit after the separation."

He said the forces' land stations controlled the launch of the Proton-M rocket.

The satellite of approximately seven tons was put into orbit with five impulses from the third stage engine. The satellite separated from the rocket stage at the altitude of about 36,000 kilometers. It will stay at 61.5 degrees West on the geo-stationary orbit for 15 years.

The launch of the U.S. satellite was the third liftoff of Proton rockets since the August failure, when the off-normal operation of the Briz-M stage prevented telecommunication satellites Telkom-3 and Express-MD2 from reaching their target orbits.

In all, Russia has done 22 launches, including the one of Nov. 20, from its space centers this year. Two Zenit rockets blasted off the floating platform in the Pacific under the Sea Launch program, and one Soyuz-ST rocket was launched from Kourou in French Guiana. One launch (of a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur in August) failed, which led to the loss of Indonesia's Telkom-3 and Russian Express-MD2.

The Proton-M heavy rocket was built for delivering satellites to the near-earth orbit and outer space. The rocket designed at the Khrunichev Space Center is used in federal and foreign satellite launches.

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