Category: News

Khrunichev Space Center: Proton M Mission from Baikonur Cosmodrome Successfully Completed

The Proton M booster with the Breeze M upper stage that was launched on April 19, 2018, at 01:12 a.m. Moscow time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome has successfully delivered a Russian military payload into orbit. This was the first launch in 2018, and the 417th launch overall of the Proton launch vehicle (including all its modifications starting in 1965).

The Proton launch vehicle and the Breeze M upper stage were developed and are manufactured at the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, a part of the Roscosmos State Corporation.

The Proton M launch vehicle is an enhanced variant of the Proton heavy-lift booster incorporating improved operational, performance and environmental characteristics. The Proton M launch vehicle in combination with the Breeze M upper stage is capable of delivering payloads weighing over 6 metric tons into geostationary transfer orbit.

Currently, the Proton M launch vehicle with the Breeze M upper stage is Russia’s main heavy-lift workhorse to launch unmanned spacecraft into near-earth orbits as well as escape trajectories in support of federal and commercial missions.

Russia’s orbital satellite constellations that provide communications services across Russian regions – GLONASS and EXPRESS – are replenished and deployed with the help of the Proton M launch vehicle. The Proton launch vehicle is also used to deliver space modules to the Russian segment of the ISS. The maiden launch of the Proton M launch vehicle with the Breeze M upper stage was used to inject a commercial payload (Nimiq 2) back in early 2002. Since then more than 70 commercial spacecraft have been delivered into orbit with the help of the Proton M launch vehicle.

Joint Stock Company Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center (Khrunichev Space Center is a part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) is the developer and manufacturer of the Proton launch vehicle, Breeze M upper stage and the Angara launch vehicle family. Khrunichev’s affiliates include a number of key component and subsystem manufacturers that are located both in Moscow and in other cities of the Russian Federation.

The Khrunichev Space Center is the owner of the majority stake at ILS International Launch Services, Inc. with its headquarters located in Reston, Virginia (for more information about ILS please visit ILS possesses exclusive rights to market and operate the Proton launch vehicle in the commercial market.  For more information about Khrunichev, please visit website at

International Launch Services (ILS) Secures Additional Launch Orders For Proton Medium Vehicle

Proton Medium over earth

WASHINGTON, D.C., 14 March, 2018-ILS, a leading provider of commercial launch services, announced multiple launch assignments for Proton Medium launches that will include the use of both the 4.35 meter and the new 5.2 meter payload fairing. The missions will take place beginning in late 2019 from Pad 24 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Proton Medium launch vehicle is an optimized 2-stage version of the heritage Proton Breeze M vehicle.  The medium class vehicle serves the lighter weight satellites in the 3.5 to 6 Metric Ton range with the capability to launch single, dual or multiple satellites to a variety of orbits. The Proton Medium vehicle utilizes either the 5.2 or 4.35 meter payload fairing with the benefits of the standard, flight-proven Proton Breeze M configuration and spacecraft insertion history.

“Since its introduction in the fall of 2016, and following the first firm launch order for the vehicle at that time, the Proton Medium has continued to gain traction and interest in the marketplace,” said Kirk Pysher, President of ILS. “Customers continue to look for vehicles that are right-sized for new-generation missions but also provide compelling value and launch vehicle diversity.” Pysher continued, “We look forward to the upcoming launches starting next year.”

About ILS
ILS is a leader in providing launch services for satellite operators and offers a complete array of services and support, from contract arrangements, mission management and on-orbit delivery. ILS markets the Proton Breeze M, Proton Medium, and Angara 1.2 launch services to commercial and government satellite operators worldwide. ILS is a U.S. company headquartered in Reston, VA., near Washington, D.C.

For more information, visit, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube

International Launch Services (ILS) and Effective Space Announce The ILS Proton Breeze M Launch of Two Satellite-servicing Space Drone™ Spacecraft In 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C., 12 March, 2018 — ILS, a U.S.-based leading global commercial launch services provider and UK headquartered Effective Space announce their intent to contract to deliver two of Effective Space’s SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft into orbit. The Proton Breeze M rideshare launch is planned for 2020 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

“ILS is focused on serving the satellite industry with flexible, and affordable launch solutions and our agreement with Effective Space is a perfect example of that. The performance of the Proton Breeze M vehicle to deliver the SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft directly to geostationary orbit combined with our decades-long history of launching dual or multiple spacecraft at one time, makes it a natural fit for Proton to deploy their spacecraft,” said ILS President Kirk Pysher. “This combination of performance and experience will enable Effective Space to realize their mission objective in the most expedient and effective way possible.”

The ILS Proton Breeze M vehicle with the standard 4 meter payload fairing will launch the two spacecraft into a geostationary orbit. The SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft will then use their onboard propulsion system to maneuver to their contracted life-extension mission locations, as recently announced.

The SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft is a 400-kilogram spacecraft (1m x 1m x 1.25m) that has a universal, non-intrusive docking system to rendezvous and dock to the geostationary host satellite. The SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft then uses electric propulsion to take over the station-keeping and attitude-control maneuvers of the joint stack. Missions include station-keeping, relocation, deorbiting, orbit correction, inclination correction and ‘bringing into use’ (BIU). The ILS Proton Breeze M launch will be the first deployment of Effective Space’s SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft in 2020. Planned fleet expansion will see up to six (6) SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft being sent to orbit on an annual basis. Future phases will see SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft being launched to support low Earth orbit (LEO) constellations, Active-Debris-Removal (ADR) and other logistics in space.

“Launching our first two SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft into a geostationary orbit is part of our strong commitment to our first customer, meeting mission timeline and ensuring smooth transition into a life-extension service,” said Arie Halsband, founder and CEO of Effective Space.

“Due to the attractive economics, extending existing assets in space is something that is gaining significant traction in today’s market. With that in mind, the announcement of this launch, utilizing the performance of the Proton Breeze M vehicle, is an important milestone for a rapidly developing market. ILS worked with us to arrive at a reliable, high performing, cost-effective solution for our business. We look forward to our continued work with ILS and Khrunichev to propel this exciting phase of our company forward,” said Halsband.

The Proton Breeze M vehicle has launched 416 times since its maiden launch in 1965, when it started out as a two-stage vehicle. For ILS, there have been 96 missions to date since its debut with the launch of the Astra 1F communications satellite in 1996. Proton Breeze M has a lift capability of 6.3 Metric Tons to reference GTO and over 3 Metric Tons to GSO; it has the versatility to launch single, dedicated missions as well as dual or multiple spacecraft with either the standard 4.35m payload fairing or the larger 5.2m diameter payload fairing.

About ILS

ILS is a leader in providing launch services for satellite operators and offers a complete array of services and support, from contract arrangements, mission management and on-orbit delivery. ILS markets the Proton Breeze M, Proton Medium, and Angara 1.2 launch services to commercial and government satellite operators worldwide. ILS is a U.S. company headquartered in Reston, VA., near Washington, D.C.

For more information, visit, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube

About Effective Space
Effective Space is pioneering last-mile logistics in space. It deploys and operates a fleet of small SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft that will deliver, position, maintain, monitor and guarantee space assets in orbit and beyond. Its ‘Phase One’ rollout is based on an existing solid business case: life-extension services to operators of satellites in geosynchronous-earth-orbit (GEO). Services include station-keeping and attitude-control, relocation, orbit and inclination correction, deorbiting and ‘bringing into use’ (BIU). The SPACE DRONE™ platform is well capable of supporting evolving low-earth (LEO) constellations, as well as active-debris removal (ADR) missions. Long-term services will also support asteroid-mining, deep space exploration and space manufacturing logistics.

Effective Space is headquartered in the UK. For more information, visit

ILS’s Pysher: Proton continues to reinvent itself to compete

Proton M Liftoff

by Warren Ferster — February 26, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The top executive with the U.S. firm that markets Russia’s Proton rocket blasted what he characterized as a recent slew of misinformation surrounding the vehicle, saying it enjoys the full support of the Russian government and that the culmination of a three-year quality control program instituted by its manufacturer is restoring the reliability for which the vehicle has long been known.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Kirk Pysher, president of International Launch Services (ILS), said of erroneous press reports concerning a slow-down in orders for the venerable Proton.

Contrary to reports of a bare-bones Proton manifest for 2018, Pysher, citing manufacturer Khrunichev Space Center, said the vehicle has as many as five missions scheduled for the year. These include four Russian government missions, beginning with a communications satellite launch in spring, and one for ILS carrying two commercial satellites.

ILS has 12 missions on its manifest through 2021, Pysher said, including multi-launch deals with the world’s top satellite operators, and is actively engaged with several prospective customers for its vehicles, including the heavy-lift Proton Breeze M, the recently introduced Proton Medium, and the Angara 1.2. Most of the interest is in the Proton Medium, an optimized two-stage version of the standard Proton Breeze M geared towards a market that in recent years has shifted toward lighter-weight geostationary satellites and low-Earth orbiting constellations.

“The right sizing of the Proton Medium is an example of refining a proven vehicle, to remain highly competitive in more segments of a rapidly evolving market,” Pysher continued. The approach is beginning to pay dividends. As an example, Pysher said one major operator currently is soliciting offers for a five-launch contract involving satellites weighing 3.5 to 5.5 metric tons, the sweet-spot of Proton Medium’s target market. Currently ILS has one announced order for the Proton Medium, though Pysher said, “Proton Medium is available for our current manifested customers, if that provides the optimal launch solution for them.”

Meanwhile, Moscow-based Khrunichev is entering the fourth year of a quality control initiative that already is showing results: 12 successes in Proton’s last 12 missions dating back to 2015. Of those missions, eight were commercial launches conducted on behalf of ILS.

The initiative to improve overall Proton quality and reliability was instituted in 2015 following a string of Proton mishaps that eroded confidence in the vehicle, which has been a reliable and versatile workhorse – it has launched everything from communications satellites to International Space Station modules to Mars missions – for more than 50 years. Mission assurance has become a top priority at both Roscosmos and Khrunichev, as evidenced by a late 2016 decision to halt Proton flights due to a potential soldering issue within a batch of engines that was identified during a standard quality inspection of an engine that had just successfully completed a test firing.

“Since the engine passed the test firing without issue, the decision could have been made to continue to fly, and the vehicle most likely would have performed without issue,” Pysher said. However, Khrunichev and Roscosmos decided to stand-down and replace all potentially affected parts. “This was not an easy decision but it clearly demonstrates the dedication to ensuring mission success,” he said.

Pysher attributed the renewed focus on quality to new management at Khrunichev, beginning with Andrey Kalinovsky, who instituted the quality control and other modernization activities upon coming to the organization from Russia’s Sukhoi Civil Aircraft company in 2014. Kalinovsky is now with Roscosmos State Corporation, which oversees Russia’s space industry, where he serves as executive director in charge of quality and reliability.

Kalinovsky’s replacement as Khrunichev director general is Aleksey Varochko, who took the reins of the company last year with the same zeal for quality control.

“Our task at Khrunichev is to ensure that reliable hardware is produced and delivered on time for all planned and future Proton and Angara missions,” Varochko said. “Our commitment to ensuring quality in our product lines is the highest priority. We are now beginning our fourth year into the extensive reform of our business and all phases of the program have been successfully conducted. However, we are certainly not finished with our work. We are dedicated to continual improvement of our processes, our people and our product for now, and well into the future.”

Pysher said the Proton flight hiatus, imposed amidst a string of successful missions, demonstrates that the new system is working. “There hasn’t been another time in history when the Proton was down for a year to investigate quality issues,” Pysher said. “That was a paradigm shift; it’s what the market has been asking for.”

The vehicle returned to flight in June 2017, performing four successful missions, including three Protons launched over a six-week period.

Nonetheless, insurance rates for Proton missions remain above the market average, Pysher acknowledged. He said the reliability issues did not happen overnight and restoring the underwriters’ confidence in Proton will not happen overnight either.

“The insurance market is really looking for Proton to demonstrate that it is not a 1-failure-every-10-launches system,” Pysher said. “We are seeing the rates drop but not to the extent we would like them to. Based on discussions with the underwriting market, we expect to see the capacity start to come back to Proton after 15 successful missions and be fully engaged by 20.”

Pysher did not deny that competition was fierce in 2017, with the launch service providers battling over only 11 commercial geostationary satellite launch orders for the year. However, he said, both established and new operators have made it clear that they want ILS in the market, and appreciate having ILS and Proton as one of the mainstay providers to launch their satellites on time, whether it is dedicated, a dual launch or multi-satellite constellation.

“ILS is considered one of the most successful post Cold-War U.S.-Russian partnerships and we have endured the test of time. We have weathered the highs and lows in the marketplace over a 25-year period with 96 commercial launches to date. We have responded to market demand time and time again and have right-sized the Proton launch vehicle and our product offerings accordingly,” Pysher noted.

Geostationary satellite operators clearly are struggling with how best to compete with terrestrial systems, with no consensus as to which design approach is most advantageous in that regard. But there is consensus on the need for launch services that cost far less and are flexible enough to accommodate whatever approach the operators choose, be that large, high-throughput satellites, medium-class satellites featuring electric propulsion, or lighter-weight satellites that can be launched in pairs or in bunches.

“ILS and Khrunichev have strategically developed a family of Proton variants that provide the necessary flexibility at an attractive price and you won’t have to settle for used hardware,” Pysher said. “ILS is listening to where our customers want to go and we are focused on finding ways to reduce the cost of the entire launch service, across the board.”

Proton Medium is derived from the Proton M by simply removing the third stage of the heritage vehicle and replacing it with an interstage structure, thus maintaining the flight qualified systems while minimizing the need for new ground infrastructure.

“Other major providers are introducing brand new vehicles beginning in 2020,” Pysher continued. “We have Arianespace’s parent company ArianeGroup moving ahead with Ariane 6 to replace the existing Ariane 5, ULA is introducing the Vulcan to replace Atlas V, Mitsubishi is introducing the H3 to replace H2A, SpaceX announced a new heavy-lifter called the BFR and Blue Origin introduced New Glenn. Come the 2020-2022 timeframe, the only heritage launch vehicle that will be flying is Proton and that is where commercial operators will find stability, proven reliability, and schedule assurance for their critical programs. Proton is not going anywhere and will remain a force to be reckoned with in the commercial market.”

Khrunichev space center: preparations underway for serial production of Angara family of launch vehicles

Department of Communications – Khrunichev Space Center

Khrunichev Center (part of ROSCOSMOS State Corporation) and the Central Machine Building Research Institute (TsNIIMash) are performing joint vibration tests of one of the Universal Rocket Modules (URM-1) that form the core of the Angara-A5 first stage.  These tests started in late 2017 and will take several months to complete.

The tests conducted at TsNIIMash are required to objectively assess the quality and reliability of the article prior to initiating serial production.

The serial production of URMs for the Angara family of rockets is being developed at Khrunichev’s Polyot Plant located in Omsk.  The purpose of the tests is to assess the functional readiness for the serial production of Angara launch vehicles at the Polyot plant which is outfitted with the latest production equipment and tooling, and employs cutting edge production processes.  Currently, separate parts are being manufactured at the plant for the second and third flight-ready rockets but the article is not being assembled here.

The Polyot plant in Omsk has already produced and began shipping some of the sets of URMs for the second flight-ready Angara-5 rocket.  The test unit of one such module (this unit is labeled “PV” (FV), which stands for flight + vibration tests) is being tested at the TsNIIMash loads and dynamics test site which has exceptional capabilities.

The final assembly of the second flight-ready Angara-5 launch vehicle will take place at the Khrunichev Rocket and Space plant in Moscow.  The Angara-5 launch vehicle is scheduled for delivery to the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in 2018.

Flight tests of the launch system began at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in 2014 with two successful launches:

  • The lightweight Angara-1.2PP was launched in July 2014;
  • The heavy-lift Angara-A5 #1L was launched in December 2014.

Angara Launch System at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.               

Angara, the newest Russian launch system – is a family of light, medium and heavy-lift environmentally friendly launch vehicles (LV), that are built using universal rocket modules URM-1 and URM-2 powered by engines burning eco-friendly fuel components (liquid oxygen + kerosene).

Proposed variants in the Angara Space System family are: the two-stage lightweight Angara-1.2 LV, the three-stage medium Angara-A3 LV (there are no current plans to produce Angara-A3), and the three-stage heavy-lift Angara-A5 LV.

The difference in Angara launch vehicle variants is based on the number of universal rocket modules that form the core (URM-1 on the first and second stages and URM-2 on the upper stages).  The lightweight Angara 1.2 launch vehicle consists of one URM-1.  The launch vehicle using the maximum number of URM-1s would be the heavy-lift Angara A5.

The Angara A5 LV consists of three stages.  The first stage of Angara A5 consists of four URM-1s, the second stage –has one URM-1 and the third stage – one URM-2.  URM-1 is a rocket module that acts as a single-use first and second stage booster and is based on the NPO Energomash RD-191 engine.  The URM-2 rocket module boosters are based on the RD-0124A liquid propellant engine with a thrust of 30 tons (designed by KBKhA).  Its design has a great degree of continuity (commonality) with the liquid propellant 14D23 engine used on the stage three booster of the upgraded medium-class Soyuz-2 LV.  Test flights of Soyuz-2 began in 2004.

The Angara Space System is being produced at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in accordance with a Decree of the president of the Russian Federation.  Putting the Angara Space System into operation will enable Russia to perform launches of all types of spacecraft from its territory, providing Russia with independent, guaranteed access to outer space regardless of the nature and direction that military, political and economic relations with other countries take.

The new Space System should enable delivering unmanned spacecraft for scientific, socio–economic, dual and commercial purposes to earth orbits with various altitudes and inclinations (including geostationary and geosynchronous transfer orbits) and escape orbits.  The RF Ministry of Defense and ROSCOSMOS (formerly the Federal Space Agency) are the government customers, while FGUP (Federal State Unitary Enterprise) KhSC is the principal design company.

JSC Khrunichev State Space Center (KhSC) (part of ROSCOSMOS State Corporation) designs and manufactures the Proton LV, Breeze M upper stage and the Angara family of launch vehicles.  KhSC includes, among its branches located in Moscow and other cities of the Russian Federation, several key manufacturers of launch vehicle and spacecraft components.  KhSC is a majority shareholder in International Launch Services (ILS) (Reston, USA).  ILS has exclusive rights to market and operate Proton and Angara launch vehicles for commercial customers.  For more information, visit

International Launch Services Wins Award for Innovation and Excellence

Award Winners

December 18, 2017

International Launch Services (ILS), a leading provider of launch services in the commercial satellite industry, is the winner of SpaceNews’s “Turnaround of the Year” award for 2017. The SpaceNews Awards for Excellence & Innovation honor excellence and innovation among space professionals, companies, programs and organizations. SpaceNews established the awards to honor individuals and organizations who have made a significant impact in the space industry over the past year. ILS President, Kirk Pysher said, “Putting stuff into space is hard and when your launcher has had a bad day, the whole world knows. Launch failures, anomalies, ground faults are all part of the business but it is how you recover from these events that sets your product, your team and your service apart from the competition. We have a great product in the Proton launch vehicles, supported by a highly effective and dedicated ILS and Khrunichev team offering innovative launch solutions for our customers. It was a challenging 2016 and beginning of 2017 for our team, Proton and ultimately our customers.” Pysher continued, “Our dedication and commitment to our customers for 100% mission success drove us through the challenges and brought us out the other side with a better product and service for our customers. With that in mind, I thank each and every employee of ILS and Khrunichev, as well as our customers, partners and suppliers, for enabling our successful turnaround and continuing to place their trust in us. Our sincere thanks to SpaceNews for recognizing our accomplishments with this honor.” Overcoming tremendous challenges, ILS was chosen based on several factors to include its success record of 12 consecutive launches in a row, including three Proton missions in just six weeks, culminating with the September 29 launch of AsiaSat 9. This followed an extended period of downtime as a result of new stringent quality measures implemented by Khrunichev Space Center, the maker of the Proton launch vehicle. Also during this period, ILS introduced new product developments to exclusively serve the commercial satellite industry: the 2-stage Proton Medium and a 5-meter payload fairing. In fall of 2016, ILS contracted with Eutelsat, for the first two-stage Proton Medium and its first fully commercial shared launch with the Eutelsat 5 West B and Orbital ATK’s Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV)-1 spacecraft onboard the heritage Proton M. The winners of the awards were selected through an open nomination, reader polls and by the deliberation of SpaceNews editors and contributors.