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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Europe Considers Russian Rocket Deal

Russia's Khrunichev Space Center and the European telecommunications satellite organization are discussing a deal under which Eutelsat would use the Russian center's Proton booster to launch a series of satellites.

A spokesman for the center, Sergei Zhiltsov, said Wednesday that if agreement was reached, the first launch would be in 1998.

He said the deal with Eutelsat "is very important for Russia's position in the international launching market."

Earlier this month, Eutelsat director General Jean Grenier met the space center's vice president, Anatoly Lebedev, to discuss details of the possible Proton deal.

In the past Eutelsat has used Western Europe's Ariane boosters for its satellite launches.

Zhiltsov acknowledged that the Moscow-based space center, once a top-secret enterprise, could have problems with the Eutelsat deal because it is a member of a joint venture with the Russian rocket maker Energia and the U.S. company Lockheed.

"We must discuss this agreement with our partners and get their opinion about it," Zhiltsov said.

The joint venture was created in 1993 to market the Proton and its commercial use in launching foreign satellites.

It plans to launch a U.S. communications satellite using Proton in April 1996.

The space center also has an agreement with Motorola for three Proton launches to deliver into orbit 21 communication satellites.

Zhiltsov said the center has contracts for 13 Proton launches, worth about $1 billion, and was in contact with potential new partners in France, Australia and Brazil.

Eutelsat said Monday it would seek proposals, including for the first time some from Russia, for a new series of seven telecommunications satellites which it plans to put into orbit by late 1997.

It will choose the supplier in the first three months of next year.

The satellites will have 24 transponders of 72 MegaHerz bandwidth and will cover the European continent and the Mediterranean basin, as well as having capacity for expansion to the most easterly parts of Europe.

The satellites will provide services including telephone, data transmission and television.

Paris-based Eutelsat operates networks for fixed and mobile communications groups and private and public operators in 41 countries.