How Russia's Proton Rocket Works (Infographic)

Infographic: details of Russia's Proton-M rocket.
A workhorse since 1965, recent versions of the Proton-M have been plagued with failures. (Image credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics Artist)

Editor's Note: A Proton rocket has reportedly crashed after launching an advanced Russian communications satellite toward space from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on Friday, May 16, 2014 local time. Full Story: Russian Rocket Carrying Advanced Satellite Crashes After Launch: Reports

The Proton series of rockets was first launched in 1965. Proton rockets were used to launch Salyut, Mir and International Space Station modules as well as probes to the moon, Mars and Venus. 

The Proton rocket stands 174 feet tall (53 meters) and has three main stages. The Breeze-M fourth stage can be restarted to put payloads into high orbit.

The Proton-M carries UDMH fuel (unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine) and N2O4 oxidizer (nitrogen tetroxide) in its main stages. The Breeze-M fourth stage runs on liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

The Proton-M rocket program has recently been plagued by failures. On July 1, 2013, a Proton-M carrying three Glonass navigation satellites (the Russian equivalent of GPS satellites) shut down its engines 17 seconds into its flight and crashed in a devastating explosion. You can see video of the Proton-M rocket crash here.

Proton-M rocket crash story: Russian Rocket Explodes and Crashes In Failed Launch

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Karl Tate contributor

Karl's association with goes back to 2000, when he was hired to produce interactive Flash graphics. From 2010 to 2016, Karl worked as an infographics specialist across all editorial properties of Purch (formerly known as TechMediaNetwork).  Before joining, Karl spent 11 years at the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, creating news graphics for use around the world in newspapers and on the web.  He has a degree in graphic design from Louisiana State University and now works as a freelance graphic designer in New York City.