Technical Problem Delays Russian Proton Launch-UPDATE

Technical Problem Delays Russian Proton Launch-UPDATE

UPDATE:  This story has been updated to indicate that the launch vehicle has been rolled back from the launch pad.

Russia delayed the launch of Europe’s SES-4 communications satellite today because of technical problems with the Proton rocket.

Russia has experienced an unusual number of rocket problems in the past 12 months, starting with the failure of a Proton last December that doomed three GLONASS navigation satellites.   Five more failures since then have stranded spacecraft in transfer orbits or not gotten them into orbit at all, including a cargo spacecraft headed to the International Space Station, the Phobos-Grunt Mars probe, and just three days ago, a military communications satellite.  A variety of launch vehicles and upper stages from different manufacturers have been involved.

Russia’s news agency ITAR-TASS reported Monday afternoon Eastern Standard Time that the rocket “has been removed from the launch site in order to replace some of the instruments and run additional checks.”  A new launch date was not announced.

This is a commercial launch for International Launch Services (ILS), a U.S.-based company that sells launches on the Proton.  SES-4 belongs to Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES.

The satellite was originally built for New Skies, which was headquartered in the Netherlands, and carried a New Skies designation — NSS-14.  SES acquired New Skies in 2005.

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