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Proton delay hurts ILS

August 5, 2014

International Launch Services (ILS), which handles the sale to ‘western’ clients of rocket launches by the Russian-built Proton system, is laying off staff.

ILS has been badly hurt by a series of embarrassing failures by the Proton rocket, in particular the complete loss of a Russian Express-AM4R satellite in May. A failure review board has yet to publish its findings as to the cause of the crash. ILS had nothing to do with that launch, but cannot resume its flights until the review board makes its recommendations.

A statement from ILS says that “roughly” 25 per cent of staff would go, although the staff reduction was conducted “to align better with our current level of business. None of the staff reductions were performance-related,” ILS President, Phil Slack said.

Perhaps more tellingly is the message in the statement that Proton is seeing a cut-back in its core launch business. ILS now says it will be geared to making just 3-4 missions annually compared with the anticipated 7-8 launches each year, and hence the lay-offs.

While not mentioned the statement reflects the addition of SpaceX is making to the launch services market.  Billionaire Elon Musk is backing the further development of SpaceX and it is targeting up to 12 launches a year – and perhaps more.

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