The Russian-German Eurockot company has been awarded a contract from Motorola to launch two Iridium mobile communications satellites this December.

The launch will be the first by the commercial organisation, which operates converted Russian SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles. Eurockot also holds contracts for two launches of three E-SAT spacecraft each to provide data messaging services for the company and a contract from the German Space Agency to launch two satellites for the German-NASA Grace programme.

It also hold 12 options for launches of further pairs of Motorola satellites and has been selected to launch two commercial satellites for US space programmes which have not been identifed, says Peter Freeborn, sales director of Eurokot, a joint venture of DaimlerChrysler Aerospace and the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre.

There will be one demonstration commercial launch before the Iridium mission "to validate the former nuclear missile's use in its new role," says Khrunichev. The Eurockot venture is aimed particularly at quick-reaction launches at low Earth orbit communications and data gathering satellite constellat-ions, as well as serving the Earth observation, remote-sensing and science market segments, says Freeborn.

Launches will be from a refurbished launch pad at the Russian Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

A nominal launch campaign can be made in 23 days, while rapid call-up launches using satellites stored at the launch base can be made in 10 days.

A second launch base will be at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, which saw two suborbital and one orbital Rokot demonstration launches in 1990-94. More than 140 SS-19 missiles have also been fired.

The two-stage 29m (95ft) tall, 107 tonnes Eurokot is also equipped with a Breeze K upper stage which is capable of 10 restarts in orbit to reach the correct orbit. The Eurokot is capable of launching a 1,850kg (4,000lb) payload into 51o inclination LEO.

Source: Flight Daily News