Russia’s satellite launching answer to Arianespace and SpaceX is the giant Russian Proton rocket, managed and marketed to ‘western’ satellite operators by International Launch Services (ILS).
With Arianespace developing its Ariane 6 series of rockets as an answer to the competitive challenges from Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9, Russia’s Roscosmos space agency was planning its own variant, the Proton lower-cost ‘Medium’ version to compete in particular with SpaceX.
Now, according to well-sourced Russian reports and quoting Roscosmos’ chief Dmitry Rogozin, who says the development of the new Proton had been suspended and was on hold. Rogozin is reported to have said that further development could lead to the financial collapse of the enterprise, and the Agency could not afford to build the well-established Proton rockets, and a new version at the same time.
Rogozin admitted that “eternal” state support for the rocket systems is impossible and inefficient, and implied that unless the end result was a serious commercial operation there was little merit in continuing other than for government-based missions.
ILS, in a statement to trade publication Space News, says that it had clients which had contracted for Proton ‘Medium’ launches, and these would be switched to the Proton-M (more powerful) version, without extra charge.