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The commercial history of Russia’s Proton rocket

Doug Messier at Parabolic Arc today published a detailed launch history of Russia’s Proton rocket, outlining its commercial rise beginning in the 1990s and its fall in the 2010s with the arrival of SpaceX.

The fading of Proton reflected strong competition from SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rocket, which captured an increasing percentage of commercial launches with significantly lower prices.

There was also a global shift away from Proton’s bread and butter, the geosynchronous communications satellite, toward large constellations deployed into low and medium Earth orbits.

Proton’s reputation was also damaged by serious quality control problems that affected the entire Russian launch industry. Proton suffered 9 launch failures and one partial failure in the 10 years between 2006 and 2015. The booster was left grounded for as long as a year at a time. Insurance rates for Proton flights soared.

Proton appears to still have six launches on its manifest, but the shift in Russia to its Angara rocket likely means the end of Proton’s long history, begun at the very beginnings of the space age in the 1960s, is in sight.


Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Jeff Wright

    The last big hypergolic rocket. Sigh. I never liked Angara. Now, I think they should scale up the cluster tank design-and fit plunger like landing leg between the tankage. The harder it comes down-the more propellant is forced out as thrust to cushion said landing with the legs plungering hypergolics out. No cryogenic problems. Musk type landings would be simpler with room temperature liquids.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Hypergolics are highly toxic and have inferior specific impulse compared to cryogenic or partially-cryogenic propellants. They are also quite costly compared to other commonly used liquid propellant combos. We haven’t used them for anything large since Titan 2. The Chinese and Russians have stuck with hypergolics much longer, but both are now also in the process of abandoning them. By the mid-2020s I don’t expect any rockets with hypergolic main or middle stages to still be in use except by India.

  • Jeff Wright

    But they would make for better depots. Temperature doesn’t matter as much.

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