Aging Proton Rocket Won’t Be Replaced Until 2024: Industry Official

Russia’s long-serving Soviet-era Proton launch vehicles will not be replaced by newer Angara systems until 2024, an industry official said at an aerospace conference in the city of Kazan, Engadget reports.

Yuri Koptev, Chairman of the Science and Engineering Board of the state-run corporation Rostec, said that Proton rockets will apparently still be in service for at least another six years as the number of constructed Angara launchers apparently is not enough to meet requirements.

“As at today, the decision is to build up a certain reserve of such rockets in stock and to expect the advent of operational Angara at around 2024. After that Proton will cease to exist as such,” Koptev said.

The Proton is a family of Russian rockets that have been in use since 1965. The expendable launch vehicle is commonly used to launch commercial and Russian government satellites. As of mid-2018, the rocket line has launched more than 400 times, with most of those launches being successful.

Some of Proton’s most famous launches include sending the core module of the Russian Mir space station into orbit in 1986 and taking into space the Zarya and Zvezda modules of the International Space Station in 1998 and 2000, respectively.

In 2016, a Proton successfully launched the Trace Gas Orbiter component of the European-Russian ExoMars mission. Proton rockets have successfully carried other spacecraft to Venus and Mars, and parts of the Russian Salyut space station.

Rockets are constructed at the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center plant in Moscow and launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The number of launches of Proton-M rockets is decreasing every year as the production of this rocket is drawing to a close and no new launch contracts are likely to be signed in the near future.