Russian Proton sends US satellite into orbit

Russia's Proton-M rocket has successfully delivered the US Sirius FM-5 communication satellite into orbit.

The spacecraft was launched at about 23.10 Moscow time on Tuesday from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan.

The launch is the fifth involving a Proton-M in 2009 and the 346th in the history of Proton launches. The rocket weighs some 700 tonnes and is the largest Russian launch vehicle in operational service.

The Sirius FM-5, designed by Space Systems/Loral Company, will provide improved radio and data services for autos and mobile phones in the United States and Canada. It is expected to operate for approximately 15 years. The satellite weighs 5,840 kg and has twice the power of any existing satellites.

Four Sirius satellites have been put into orbit with Protons since 2000.

The Russian-American joint venture, International Launch Services (ILS), signed a contract in March to launch two Sirius satellites to expand the existing SIRIUS radio satellite network. ILS provides spacecraft launch services using Proton-M carrier rockets.