Proton Problems

With the failed launch of the fourth Russian Proton rocket in the last 48 missions on August 6, 2012 due to a failed Briz-M upper stage, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatening reprisals for producing “low quality products”  one has to wonder if the commercial launch market is due for a major shakeup.  The Proton, which is marketed commercially by International Launch Services of Reston, Virginia, had proven a popular alternative to the increasingly expensive European Ariane-V, but ongoing problems suggest that a market opportunity is rapidly developing particularly for SpaceX, which is due to launch its first Falcon 9 Version 1.01 early next year.  Another potential beneficiary of the Russian space problems is China, which is enjoying a string of successes but faces the impediment of overcoming ITAR content restrictions. Finally, given ongoing efforts to reduce costs and the threat of competition in the Air Forces’s EELV program,  might it be possible that with its string of 50 successful launches,  the door is opening for United Launch Alliance to effectively re-enter the commercial  launch market as well?

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