Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Lockheed Martin and Krunichev have agreed to assign exclusive marketing rights for the Angara family of launchers to their joint venture, International Launch Services (ILS).

Krunichev is developing the Angara as a successor to the Proton launcher, marketed commercially by ILS. The first launch is planned for 2001, from Russia's Plesetsk Cosmodrome (Flight International, 28 July-3 August).

Russian news agency ITAR-TASS says Lockheed Martin will pay Krunichev $68 million for the rights to market the Angara. ILS has agreed to pay a franchise fee, but declines to give details.

Krunichev managing director Anatoli Kiselev says money to develop the new booster will come from launch contracts. Three versions are planned initially: the Angara A-1.1 and 1.2 will be able to place 2.2-3.4t into low earth orbit, while the A-5 will be able to put 5.2t into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO)

The Angara is similar in concept to Lockheed Martin's Atlas V, also marketed by ILS and due for a first launch in 2001. ILS says the new Russian booster will allow it to continue offering customers launcher diversity, which it does now by offering the Atlas and the Proton.

ILS is struggling, meanwhile, as all its current launcher range is grounded: the Atlas family because its Centaur upper stage failed on a Boeing Delta III flight in May; and the Proton because its Breeze M upper stage failed on a Russian Government launch in July.

The US-Russian joint venture hopes to return the Atlas to flight in September, with either the Atlas IIA launch of the US Navy's UHF-F10 communications satellite or the Atlas IIAS launch of the Echostar 5 commercial satellite. The Atlas IIA that was to launch a NASA weather satellite has been "destacked" (taken apart).

ILS has decided also to destack the first Atlas IIIA, which has been on the launch pad since March, after its planned payload was switched to an Ariane launcher. Concerned by the Centaur failure, Loral Space & Communications has moved its Telstar 7 to an Ariane 44LP to preserve a September launch. Loral's Orion 3 was lost in the Delta III failure.

ILS is looking for another "paying customer" for the maiden Atlas IIIA flight, which it still hopes will take place this year. The company expects to conduct "eight or nine" Atlas launches this year, down from the 12 planned, but has completed only two so far.

A further six Proton launches are required to meet the target of 10 this year, but ILS does not yet know when the booster will be returned to flight. The company is awaiting a US Government licence to discuss the July failure with Russia, which is investigating the incident.

The US Government, meanwhile, has agreed to raise the cap on commercial Proton launches of geostationary satellites, agreed in September 1993, from 16 to 20. ILS says this will allow it to meet this year's launch commitments, but is still pressing for the quota to be lifted before it expires at the end of next year.

"As our manifest stands, there are customers with launch commitments next year who would not be covered by the quota, even at 20," ILS says. It has commitments for 12 GTO launches, four of which remain outside the raised quota, creating uncertainty.

Source: Flight International