Proton failure – Ariane re-sets

by Chris Bergin

International Launch Services (ILS) have announced that their mission involving the Russian Proton-M launch vehicle with its Briz-M upper stage, carrying ARABSAT 4A for EADS Astrium has failed.

The launch took place on schedule at 20:10 UTC (3:10pm Eastern US) from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but failed to place ARABSAT 4A into its proper orbit, due to a rocket failure in the upper stage.

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ILS posted a statement on their website to explain the problem.

“Khrunichev and International Launch Services regret to announce the failure of the Proton launch vehicle to put the ARABSAT 4A satellite into proper orbit for EADS Astrium and ARABSAT.

“The Proton Breeze M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 2:10 a.m. today local time (3:10 p.m. Tuesday EST, 20:10 Tuesday GMT). Preliminary flight information indicates that the Breeze M upper stage shut down early during its planned burn sequence. As a contingency, the satellite was separated. We cannot comment on the disposition of the spacecraft at this time.

“A Russian State Commission is being formed to determine the reasons for the anomaly. In parallel with the State Commission, ILS will form its own Failure Review Oversight Board to review reasons for the anomaly and define a corrective action plan. ILS will release additional information when it becomes available.

“ILS remains committed to providing reliable, timely launch services for all its customers. To this end, ILS will work diligently with its partner Khrunichev to return Proton to flight as soon as possible.”

Mission preview:

ARABSAT 4A, a Eurostar 2000+ satellite, is designed to expand and optimize capacity for direct-to-home TV broadcasting, telephony and data transmission over a coverage zone encompassing North Africa, the Middle East and part of Western Europe.

Live launch thread and webcast – plus background

This mission marks the fifth campaign ILS and EADS Astrium team members have collaborated on for launch aboard a Proton vehicle.

Arabsat 4-A will carry 24 active channels in C-band and 16 active Ku-band channels and Arabsat 4-B will have a payload of 28 active Ku-band channels. Both satellites will have a launch mass of around 3.3 tonnes and a 15-year design life.

The largest Russian launch vehicle in operational service, Proton is the workhorse of the Russian rocket fleet, and has earned a 96 percent reliability record with 316 launches since the mid-1960s. Proton is used to launch all Russian geostationary and interplanetary missions under Khrunichev while International Launch Services oversees the majority of commercial satellite launches.

The Proton launch vehicle is built by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center.

The Proton-M and Briz-M duo will be back in action on May 17, with the launch of Hot bird 8, also from Baikonur.

Meanwhile, Arianespace have announced they will make a third attempt to launch their Ariane 5 ECA on Thursday, March 9. Window opens at 22:06pm UK time.

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