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International Launch Services (ILS) manages the Russian Proton rocket launch system. Proton has had more than its fair share of problems this past year or two but Nov 11 saw it receive a significant 5-launch contract from Intelsat. The deal, which runs until 2023, is a major confidence booster for ILS, and is bad news for its rivals, Arianespace and relative newcomer SpaceX.
The 5 launches will take place from the Russian cosmodrome at Baikonur in Kazakhstan. ILS will use a Proton rocket with its Briz-M upper stage.
Russia’s Khrunichev builds the Proton rocket, and is also the majority owner of ILS.
The relationship between Intelsat and ILS is not new. They have worked together for the past 18 years and ILS has supervised the launch of 11 satellites for Intelsat.
Not mentioned by either party is the value of the agreement, but the deal would have been fiercely competitive, and perhaps helped by the strength of the US dollar relative to the Russian rouble.
“Given the size of Intelsat’s global fleet, we need assured and timely access to space, with launch providers that are committed partners with the ability to meet our high quality standards and schedule requirements,” said Thierry Guillemin, Executive Vice President, and Chief Technology Officer of Intelsat. “To that end, launch diversity is essential to the success of our sector. ILS and Khrunichev have committed to a path that will return them to the highest quality standards. Our agreement with ILS, which covers a span of seven years, will support our goal of improved access to space.”