Kazakhstan's first national satellite was deployed into orbit after a marathon launch overnight Saturday by a Proton rocket. Once operational, the craft will link remote reaches of central Asia through broadcasting and telephone services.

The KazSat 1 spacecraft launched aboard a Proton rocket at 6:44 p.m. EDT (2244 GMT) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Proton booster's three core stages each worked as advertised to place KazSat 1 and its Block DM upper stage in a preliminary parking orbit.

The Block DM then fired multiple times to raise its orbital altitude and lower its inclination before releasing its payload at 1:32 a.m. EDT (0532 GMT), according to officials quoted by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Reported to cost about $100 million, KazSat 1 will begin a 12-year mission to serve customers in the broadcasting and fixed telephony industries. The spacecraft carries 12 Ku-band transponders designed to provide services to users across Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and parts of Russia.

KazSat 1 was built by the Russian company Khrunichev, which also manufactured the Proton rocket core vehicle used for the launch. The contract for the construction and launch of the satellite was signed in January 2004. A year later, the governments of Russia and Kazakhstan agreed to a broad agreement that outlined further details of the project and other space cooperation plans between the two countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan both viewed the blastoff from a nearby location after a day of diplomatic talks.

Russia is also providing aid to Kazakhstan by helping to develop ground stations, control centers, and in personnel training.

The two nations plan to again collaborate for the launch of the KazSat 2 satellite. Additional cooperative missions could also be announced in the future.

Russia's primary launch site for human spaceflight and geostationary launches - the Baikonur Cosmodrome - is located in the steppes of central Kazakhstan. Since the fall of the Soviet Union left Baikonur inside Kazakh territory 15 years ago, Russia has leased rights to use the installation from Kazakhstan.

This weekend's launch was the first for the Proton rocket family since a failure in February stranded an Arab communications satellite in a useless orbit. Investigators found fault with the Breeze M upper stage's oxidizer supply system, which could have been blocked by a foreign object near a nozzle of the booster hydraulic pump. The blockage caused the main engine to shut down prematurely during the stage's second burn.

The next flight of the Proton launcher is planned for late July, at the earliest, with the European Hot Bird 8 direct-to-home broadcasting satellite. The mission will be the first to include a Breeze M upper stage since February's failure.

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