Russian Proton rocket launches Express communications satellites in stunning nighttime liftoff (video, photos)

russian-proton-rocket-launches-express-communications-satellites-in-stunning-nighttime-liftoff-(video,-photos)

A Proton rocket launched two communications satellites for the Russian government Thursday (July 30) in a dazzling nighttime liftoff.  

The heavy-lift Proton-M rocket equipped with a Breeze-M upper stage launched the Express 80 and Express 103 communications satellites into orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Liftoff occurred at 5:25 p.m. EDT (2125 GMT). The local time at the launch site was 2:25 a.m. on Friday (July 31). 

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos hailed the launch as a success. The Express communications satellites successfully separated from the 174-foot-tall (53 meters) Proton just over 18 hours after liftoff, Roscosmos officials said

Related: Roscosmos: Russia’s Space Centers and Launch Sites in Pictures

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A Russian Proton-M rocket launches the Express 80 and Express 103 communications satellites for the Russian Satellite Communications Company from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 30, 2020.

(Image credit: Roscosmos)

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A Russian Proton-M rocket launches the Express 80 and Express 103 communications satellites for the Russian Satellite Communications Company from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 30, 2020.

(Image credit: Roscosmos)

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A Russian Proton-M rocket launches the Express 80 and Express 103 communications satellites for the Russian Satellite Communications Company from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 30, 2020.

(Image credit: Roscosmos)

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A Russian Proton-M rocket launches the Express 80 and Express 103 communications satellites for the Russian Satellite Communications Company from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 30, 2020.

(Image credit: Roscosmos)

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A Russian Proton-M rocket stands ready to launch the Express 80 and Express 103 communications satellites for the Russian Satellite Communications Company from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 30, 2020.

(Image credit: Roscosmos)

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A Russian Proton-M rocket stands ready to launch the Express 80 and Express 103 communications satellites for the Russian Satellite Communications Company from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 30, 2020.

(Image credit: Roscosmos)

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A Russian Proton-M rocket stands ready to launch the Express 80 and Express 103 communications satellites for the Russian Satellite Communications Company from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 30, 2020.

(Image credit: Roscosmos)

Built by Roscosmos’ ISS Reshetnev, the Express communications satellites will use electric thrusters to reach their final orbits that range between 10,300 miles (16,600 kilometers) and 34,100 miles (54,900 kilometers), according to Spaceflight Now. It should take the two satellites up to 160 days to reach their target orbits, according to Roscosmos.

The Express 80 and Express 103 satellites are designed to serve users with fixed and mobile data services, digital TV and radio broadcasting and high-speed internet access, Roscosmos officials said. They should last about 15 years in orbit.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram.

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