SPUTNIK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SPUTNIK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Proton booster rocket being lifted into position. Conceived by the Soviets in the early 1960s as a powerful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the Proton rocket, or UR-500, came to be used instead as a mainstay of the USSR's space program. The first launch of the rocket was in 1965 when a two-stage version put a military satellite into space. The rocket gradually developed into a three- or four-stage version, most notably used in supplying the international space station. Recently the US contractor Lockheed-Martin has worked with the Russian space agency in developing a successful commercial version of the rocket.
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