A Proton-M launch vehicle carrying the ExoMars automatic interplanetary station will lift off from the Baikonur space center on January 7, 2016, a Russian space industry source told Interfax-AVN on Sept.3.
"The partners of the Russian-European Mars exploration program have determined that the first mission will go to the Red Planet on January 7 next year," it said.
The ExoMars launch is treated as a priority of the Russian space program, the source said.
"Taking into consideration the importance of launching a Proton with the ExoMars spacecraft on board in January, it has been decided not to use Proton-M rockets for launches from Baikonur in December," it said.
This is why one launch of a Proton-M carrying the European communications satellite Eutelsat-9B has been postponed from November or December 2015 to 2016, the source said.
ExoMars, a joint program pursued by the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos and the European Space Agency, should be carried out at two stages, including the launch of an orbital satellite to Mars in 2016 and a rover in 2018. Both launches are to be conducted using Russian Proton-M launch vehicles.
It was reported earlier that launches of Proton-M rockets in 2016 and in 2018 were planned within the ExoMars project's framework.
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