PLANS TO DEVELOP THE up-rated Proton M geostationary-orbit (GEO) satellite-launch vehicle have been delayed to at least the year 2000 by budget cuts. The Proton M was to have entered the commercial market in 1997, capable of placing 4,500kg into GEO, equipped with improved first-stage engines and the KVD-1 cryogenic fourth stage. ILS International Launch Services, which markets the existing 2,600kg-to-GEO Proton K - pictured on its first commercial launch, carrying the Astra 1F satellite on 8 April - is studying the use of alternative launch sites to improve GEO capability. A launch from Brazil's Alcantara launch base, for example, could increase the current Proton K's capacity to 7,400kg, according to the company. The Proton K has seven commercial GEO satellite contracts and will also be used to launch 21 Iridium satellites into low-Earth orbit.

Source: Flight International