Twenty years ago a historic decision was made to establish a joint venture to market Proton launch services in the global arena. Three short years after that in April of 1996, the first launch of a Russian launch vehicle in the interests of international customers took place. Today, there have been more than 80 such launches performed.
The International Launch Services – Khrunichev partnership is one of the most successful examples of economic cooperation ever undertaken between U.S. and Russian companies. The productive partnership began in the early 1990s when the Lockheed Corporation and Khrunichev began discussions to create a joint venture to market commercial Proton rocket launches. The joint venture was seen as an important step in U.S. – Russia relations and was supported by officials in both the U.S. and Russian governments.
The U.S.-based joint venture company became a reality in 1993 under the name Lockheed Khrunichev Energia International (LKE), which eventually became International Launch Services. In June 1995, ILS was established as a subsidiary of LKE to market launch services worldwide using the Proton rocket. In May 2008, Khrunichev purchased a majority stake in ILS.
Over the 20-year partnership, ILS and Khrunichev have built strong relationships with global satellite operators that have facilitated the planning and purchasing of commercial launch services. ILS has negotiated contracts for almost 100 commercial Proton launches for major corporations from around the world. ILS’ launches have enabled the growth and development of the some of the largest media and information companies in the world, such as DIRECTV, EchoStar/Dish TV and Sirius XM Radio, Intelsat, GE Americom and Skynet. Thanks to successful proton launches millions globally are able to, for example, enjoy satellite entertainment services at home, in the car and even mid flight. The success of the ILS-Khrunichev partnership has made the Proton rocket one of the leading vehicles for commercial launch services.
This partnership, stretching over two decades, is the most successful post- Cold War cooperative venture between the United States and Russia outside of oil and gas exploration. Continue reading