ILS Proton-M returns to flight by lofting Orbital’s Intelsat 23 uphill

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International Launch Services (ILS) have launched their Proton-M rocket in a daylight launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launch was on schedule at 8:37 am GMT, with the Proton’s Briz-M (Breeze-M) Upper Stage successfully deploying the large telecommunications satellite into its desired orbit, after nine hours of flight.

Proton M Launch:

The Proton booster that launched the satellite was 4.1 m (13.5 ft) in diameter along its second and third stages, with a first stage diameter of 7.4 m (24.3 ft). Overall height of the three stages of the Proton booster is 42.3 m (138.8 ft).

The Proton vehicle has a heritage of nearly 400 launches since 1965 and is built by Khrunichev Research and State Production Center, one of the pillars of the global space industry and the majority owner of ILS.

The first stage consists of a central tank containing the oxidizer surrounded by six outboard fuel tanks. Each fuel tank also carries one of the six RD-276 engines that provide first stage power. Total first stage vacuum-rated level thrust is 11.0 MN (2,500,000 lbf).

Of a conventional cylindrical design, the second stage is powered by three RD-0210 engines plus one RD-0211 engine and develops a vacuum thrust of 2.4 MN (540,000 lbf).

Powered by one RD-0213 engine, the third stage develops thrust of 583 kN (131,000 lbf), and a four-nozzle vernier engine that produces thrust of 31 kN (7,000 lbf). Guidance, navigation, and control of the Proton M during operation of the first three stages is carried out by a triple redundant closed-loop digital avionics system mounted in the Proton’s third stage.

The Breeze-M upper stage is the Phase III variant, a recent upgrade which utilizes two new high-pressure tanks (80 liters) to replace six smaller tanks, along with the relocation of command instruments towards the centre – in order to mitigate shock loads when the additional propellant tank is being jettisoned.

The Proton M launch vehicle is utilizing a 4-burn Breeze M mission design following lift off from Pad 24 at Baikonur. The first three stages of the Proton used a standard ascent profile to place the Orbital Unit (Breeze M Upper Stage and the Intelsat 23 satellite) into a sub-orbital trajectory.

From this point in the mission, the Breeze M will perform planned mission maneuvers to advance the Orbital Unit first to a circular parking orbit, then to an intermediate orbit, followed by a transfer orbit, and finally to a near geostationary orbit. Separation of the Intelsat 23 satellite is scheduled to occur approximately 9 hours and 30 minutes after liftoff.

This mission is returning the Proton workhorse back to flight, following the Russian Federal Telkom-3/Express MD-2 mission failure – caused by the Breeze M – that occurred on August 7.

The Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB) concluded the review of the Russian State Commission report on September 11 concerning the root cause, relating to a component of the pressurization system that was not manufactured to specifications. This caused a shutdown of the Breeze M Main engine by the Breeze M flight control system 7 seconds into the planned 18 minute and 5 second 3rd burn.

The corrective action plan includes stringent quality oversight of all rework procedures, testing, support equipment, and personnel, both at the KhSC production facilities and in Baikonur. In addition, ILS and KhSC will develop specific initiatives to enhance the unified Quality Management System (QMS) that is installed and operating at all KhSC production facilities.

“This is an opportunity to learn, enhance and improve the overall reliability and processes of our systems,” said acting ILS Vice President and Chief Technical Officer, John Palmé.

“I would like to thank the nine representatives of ILS customers, two insurance underwriting representatives and independent outside subject experts who participated in the ILS FROB process for their professionalism and diligence. We appreciate the patience and support of our customers as we plan for the return to flight of the Proton vehicle.”

Following the ILS launch, the Proton’s next test will come via a Russian Federal mission shortly after.

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Orbital Sciences Corporation built IS-23 as part of Intelsat’s fleet replacement and expansion plans. The satellite is scheduled to start service at 307 degrees East longitude in 2012, and will replace the Intelsat 707 satellite. As a C-band and Ku-band satellite, Intelsat 23 will provide enhanced capacity for enterprise, oil and gas, and data networking services.

The 2,700 kg bird is based on the GEOStar-2 Platform. In total it sports 46 C-band transponders, 30 Ku-band transponders and has an anticipated service life of more than 18 years.

The launch was the 11th for Intelsat using an ILS Proton, the fifth Orbital Satellite Launched on ILS Proton, the sixth ILS Proton Launch in 2012, the 75th ILS Proton Launch Overall and the fourth Geostationary Orbit Insertion Mission on an ILS Proton.

(Images via ILS and Orbital).

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