A Russian Proton rocket overcame a one-week delay to launch two communications satellites into space Monday (Dec. 13).
The Express-AMU3 and Express-AMU7 spacecraft flew to space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:07 a.m. EST (1207 GMT or 5:07 p.m. local time). Russian space agency Roscosmos reported launch success and said the upper stage rocket, Briz-M, would place the satellites into their target orbit across five more burns.
"All stages of the flight (separation of the stages and payload fairing jettison) went nominally," Roscosmos reported in a statement. A video of the launch showed clouds brushing by the rocket as it made a nighttime climb into the sky.
The Proton-M rocket was initially supposed to launch Dec. 6, but the launch was delayed several days due to the need to address a "deficiency" in the Briz-M booster, state media TASS reported earlier in December.
Assisted by Briz-M, the two satellites will transition to an altitude between 11,600 miles and 32,800 miles (between 18,700 km and 52,800 km) to eventually move into geosynchronous orbit, at 22,236 miles (35,786 kilometers). Geosynchronous orbit will allow a relatively fixed position over Russia as the Earth rotates.
The satellite pair is meant to serve the Russian Federation's communications and broadcasting needs, including "fixed and mobile communications, television and radio broadcasting services, broadband high-speed access to information resources and other applications," Roscosmos stated of the launch.
The last Express launch, which also sent two satellites aloft successfully, took place in July 2020. The first of the satellite series was launched in October 1994 to replace an older set of satellites known as Gorizont, then in use since 1979, according to RussianSpaceWeb.com.