In 2018 Russian heavy rocket “proton” will set the record for the number of starts, starting just twice, according to the journalist Anatoly Zak in the column for ArsTechnica.
According to him, this year, the carrier will likely not will orbit any payload. “The venerable Soviet space rocket nearly a quarter century has launched satellites for the whole world. But has slipped to almost complete irrelevance in just two years”, — says the expert.
Zach notes that despite the fact that commercial spacecraft Eutelsat-5 West B and MEV (Mission Extension Vehicle) is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2018, sources in the American company Orbital ATK, which produces MEV, reported that this unit will not be ready until at least the fourth quarter of 2018 (or, more likely, first quarter of 2019).
Attempts of the Russian government to load the “Proton” Federal orders in circumstances when its international clients disappeared, did not succeed, the expert said. In his opinion, at present, the communications satellite “Blagovest-12L”, created in the interests of defence, is the only guaranteed order for the launch of “Proton” in 2018.
“The other classified military payload can also fly this year, apparently, as needed,” says Zach.
Meteorological satellite “Electro-L” № 3 and the x-ray Observatory “Spektr-RG”, which was previously planned to launch the Ukrainian rocket “Zenit”, most likely, will be sent into space on a Proton in 2019, because “it takes time and money required to reconfigure both spacecraft”.
According to Zack, the only “really need a payload”, which in 2018 could launch the “proton” is the module Nauka for ISS. Although the launch is scheduled for December, it is unlikely that it will be possible to produce it in time.
Zach identifies three reasons for the decline in the number of launches of “Proton”: technical (“professional competence and quality control” at the enterprises of “Rosatom”), political (“there is political risk associated with the launch of a Russian payload”) and financial (competition with Western companies, SpaceX and Arianespace).
Earlier the journalist has informed that “Rosatom” for the international lunar station DSG (Deep Space Gateway) has proposed to develop a multi-purpose logistics module, which is run by the us super-heavy launch vehicle SLS (Space Launch System).
In January 2018, “the Khrunichev Centre”, the only Russian manufacturer of heavy rockets “proton” and “Angara”, due to the reduction in orders and failures of media, as well as great credit and the social burden has asked the Federal government 30 billion rubles.