Russian Proton-M rocket takes US satellite into orbit (VIDEO)

Russian Proton-M rocket takes US satellite into orbit (VIDEO)
A Russian heavy-lift Proton-M rocket has been launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, taking an American communication satellite into space. This is Roscosmos’ first Proton-M launch this year.

The rocket, which carries the US communications satellite Echostar-21, lifted off Baikonur at the appointed time on Thursday morning, Roscosmos said in a statement.

Later, the Russian space agency confirmed Proton’s booster successfully separated from the rocket on its way to orbit. Roscosmos also released a video showing the spectacular launch in the middle of Kazakhstan’s steppe.

Thursday’s launch breaks a year-long pause in Proton-M operations.

Earlier, production flaws of the rocket’s engines left Protons grounded for months, prompting a government inquiry. 

The Proton-M is the latest version of the workhorse Russian heavy rocket used to place satellites in low-Earth orbit.

Echostar 21 is a geostationary communications satellite designed and developed by Space Systems/Loral. It will provide mobile phone coverage for European customers.