Russian Proton Rocket Launches Military Satellite

Russia launched a Protonrocket Thursday night with an early warning satellite to defend the countryagainst missile attacks, news reports said.

The heavy-lifting launcherblasted off at 2359 GMT (7:59 p.m. EDT) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome inKazakhstan, according to Khrunichev, the rocket's prime manufacturer.

The Proton's Block DM upperstage was programmed to guide the top secret payload into a circulargeosynchronous orbit about 22,300 miles high. The rocket stage deployed thesatellite on schedule at 0737 GMT (3:37 a.m. EDT), Khrunichev said in a writtenstatement.

The spacecraft will helpwarn Russian military forces of worldwide missile launches, according to theNovosti news agency.

Military officials wereexpected to rename the satellite Kosmos 2440 as part of the defense ministry'sspace nomenclature.

The launch was the firstmission of the Proton rocket since a different version of the booster leftthe AMC 14 communications satellite in auseless orbit during a flight in March.

But this week's launch usedan older Proton model, including a different upper stage than the Breeze Mblamed for the March failure.

Investigators faulted a rupturedexhaust gas duct between the gas generator and a turbo pump inside theBreeze M main engine. The burst pipe led to an early shutdown of the engine,according to International Launch Services, the Russian-owned, U.S.-basedcompany marketing the Proton to commercial customers.

Engineers replaced the gasduct on the next Breeze M stage with a conduit with thicker walls to preventsimilar problems from happening again. Similar new pipes will be added to allfuture Breeze M stages, ILS officials said.

ILS cleared the Breeze Mfor return to flight earlier this month, and the next commercial Proton launchis expected later this summer. The Proton will deliver the Inmarsat 4-F3 mobilebroadband communications satellite to orbit.

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