The Russian-German Eurockot company has won a contract from Motorola for the December launch of two Iridium mobile communications satellites.

This will be the first launch by the commercial organisation, which uses Rockot-converted Russian SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles as launch vehicles. Eurockot, a joint venture of DaimlerChrysler Aerospace and Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre, holds 12 options for launches of further pairs of Motorola satellites.

The company is to conduct a demonstration commercial launch before the Iridium mission "to validate the former nuclear missile's use in its new role", says Khrunichev.

Eurockot is also contracted for two launches of three E-SAT spacecraft, each to provide data messaging services for the DBS company. It has also won a contract from the German Space Agency to launch two Grace satellites for the German-NASA programme.

In addition, it has been selected to launch two commercial satellites for two unidentified US space programmes, says Eurockot sales director Peter Freeborn.

The Eurockot venture is aimed at quick-reaction replenishment of low earth orbit communications and data-gathering satellite constellations, as well as earth observation, remote sensing and science market segments, says Freeborn.

Launches will be from the Russian Plesetsk Cosmodrome, with a second launch base planned at Baikonur, in Kazakhstan.

The two-stage, 29m (95ft)-tall, 10t Eurockot is equipped with a Breeze K upper stage which is capable of 10 restarts in orbit to reach the correct orbit. The Eurockot can launch a 1,850kg (4,100lb) payload into 51º-inclination low earth orbit.

Source: Flight International