Russia has fired a proton rocket carrying a military satellite from its Baikonour cosmodrome in Kazhakstan. For Russia, the proton rocket is the main hope for commercial satellite launches.
The launch was postponed for 24 hours because of technical problems, but it was finally carried out early Saturday.
This is Russia's fourth successful launch of a proton booster rocket this year. Last year, a Russian-built module carrying living quarters for the international space station was launched aboard a proton rocket. However, two proton rockets crashed over Kazhakstan in 1999, leading Kazhak space authorities to temporarily ban launches from the Baikonour cosmodrome. The ban was lifted in February last year.
Russia hopes to build a competitive industry using this technology for both military and non-military purposes.
Meanwhile, a U.S. delegation will visit Russia next week to check Moscow's compliance with the destruction of nuclear submarines, under the co-operative threat reduction program.
The U.S. delegation, headed by Senator Richard Lugar, will inspect a special plant in Archangel in the Russian Arctic. Over the past seven years, the facility has received $28 million from the United States for the destruction of nuclear submarines.
The delegation's visit coincides with the announcement that the U.S. has destroyed the last of 150 missile silos at the deactivated Grand Forks Air Base in North Dakota, as required by the 1991 START arms reduction treaty with Russia.