ILS Proton fails after first-second stage separation

by Chris Bergin

International Launch Services (ILS) has suffered a failure of their Proton launch vehicle with Breeze-M upper stage, carrying the JCSAT 11 telecommunications satellite for the JSAT Corporation of Japan.

Launch was on time at 6:43pm EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but shortly after second stage ignition, the vehicle failed, falling 30 miles southwest of Dzhezkazgan. Videos of the failure are available below (read more).


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A full video (from T-17 minutes to the closure of the webcast) is available on L2.


‘We’ve experienced a problem with the second stage engines,’ said Greg Gilmore, senior director of marketing and sales for ILS during the webcast. ‘Apparently they did not ignite.’

‘We are now faced with an anomaly that we must go and find out more about. Unfortunately for our customers and everybody involved, we appear as though we’ve had a problem with the second stage engines, which didn’t ignite.’

Alexander Bobrenyov, of the Khrunichev rocket design bureau: ‘An emergency situation occurred in the second stage of the carrier rocket and the satellite couldn’t be put in orbit.’

Alexander Vorobyov, of Roskosmos to Itar-Tass: ‘The fragments of the Proton-M rocket fell in a deserted area 50 kilometers to the southwest of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

‘The accident had occurred at an altitude of 74 km. A rescue team has arrived at the fall site. No casualties or destruction have been reported. The rocket and satellite are insured, a special commission will be set up.’

Adilbek Bassekeyev, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s special representative at Baikonur, said to Interfax: ”A failed launch of a Proton-M means automatic suspension of such launches from Baikonur until all the circumstances are cleared up. This is laid down by a Russian-Kazakh agreement.’

JSAT Corp statement: ‘At the moment, the impact of the incident on the consolidated results of JSAT is expected to be negligible, given that the satellite and launch costs are covered by satellite launch insurance,’ the company said.

‘This satellite was launched as a successor to an in-orbit backup satellite. The failure does not affect the communications and broadcasting services currently offered.’

More will follow…

Mission background:

Although the Proton launch vehicle is one of the most storied in rocket history, this launch marks the first for a Japanese customer. In total, this is the third ILS mission for 2007, 42nd ILS mission on Proton, ninth Proton launch of a A2100 bus satellite, and the 327th Proton launch.

JCSAT-11 is a high-power hybrid satellite consisting of 30 active Ku-band transponders and 12 active C-band transponders that will provide coverage to Japan, Oceania, the Asia-Pacific region and Hawaii.

JCSAT-11, designed for a minimum service life of 15 years, will serve as an in-orbit backup satellite for other JSAT satellites.

The A2100 breed of satellites are manufactured by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems (LMCSS), a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

The A2100 geosynchronous spacecraft series is designed to meet a wide variety of telecommunications needs including Ka-band broadband and broadcast services, fixed satellite services in C-band and Ku-band payload configurations, high-power direct broadcast services using the Ku-band frequency spectrum, and mobile satellite services using UHF, L-band and S-band payloads.

The A2100’s modular design features a major reduction in moving parts – simplifying construction, increasing on-orbit reliability, and reducing weight and cost. The A2100 bus is produced entirely from composite materials, which makes it stronger and lighter than other bus designs and reduces launch costs. The composite structure also protects the payload from thermal distortions.

The Proton launch vehicle will inject the satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit, using a four-burn Breeze M mission design.

The first three stages of the Proton will use a standard ascent trajectory to place the Breeze M fourth stage, with the satellite, into a suborbital trajectory, from which the Breeze M will place itself and the spacecraft into a circular reference, or parking, orbit of 192 km (119.3 miles), inclined at 51.5 degrees. Then the satellite will be propelled to its transfer orbit by additional burns of the Breeze M.

Following separation from the Breeze M, the spacecraft will perform a series of liquid apogee engine burns to raise perigee, lower inclination and circularize the orbit at the geostationary altitude of 35,786 km (22,236 miles).

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