USA signs licences for Russian launches
The US State Department has signed export licences for two upcoming European satellite launches. Inmarsat 5 F2, a giant satellite for London-based Inmarsat and SES of Luxembourg’s Astra 2G are both approved for launch. The problems – and doubts – arose because of anxieties that US-Russia relations were strained over the Ukrainian political situation.
However, and contrary to some reports, it was very much ‘business as usual’ as far as International Launch Services (ILS) the Russian-backed launch contractor which uses the massive Proton rocket system from Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
But there are still certain problems, not related to the export licenses and the current headache is when the launches might take place. Last week’s catastrophic launch failure of a Russian (not ILS) mission but which also used a Proton rocket, has cancelled all future launches for the time being until the cause of the launch failure is agreed.
Next week (May 26th) the Sea Launch floating platform, also Russia-backed – is due to launch a Eutelsat craft, and there has been no problem with its licensing process.