ILS Proton-M successfully launches SES-4

by Chris Bergin

International Launch Services (ILS) have launched their first Proton-M rocket of the year on Tuesday. Lift off came at 19:36 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with the Proton’s Briz-M Upper Stage then tasked with deploying the large telecommunications satellite – which was successfully carried out after nine hours of flight.

Proton Launch:

The Proton booster tasked with the launch of 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 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 launch was set to take place at the end of 2011, prior to a problem associated with the avionics system of the launch vehicle’s Breeze M upper stage forcing a delay into 2012, ahead of further slips to the February 14 launch date. The initial delay was called after Khrunichev engineers at the launch site received an anomalous telemetry reading on the Breeze M upper stage during preflight testing.

The Proton M launch vehicle, utilizing a 5-burn Breeze M mission design, lifted off from Pad 39 at Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, with the SES-4 satellite on board.

The first three stages of the Proton used a standard ascent profile to place the orbital unit (Breeze M upper stage and the SES-4 satellite) into a sub-orbital trajectory. From this point in the mission, the Breeze M performed 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 geostationary transfer orbit.

Separation of the SES-4 satellite was succesfully carried out approximately 9 hours, 12 minutes after liftoff.

“It is always thrilling to achieve milestones in our business but even more so when it is with a longtime customer, such as SES,” noted ILS President, Frank McKenna. “With the ILS Proton launch of SES-4 this marks our 20th SES satellite launched on ILS Proton and the 50th satellite in the SES fleet. We are honored to be entrusted with launching the powerful SES-4 satellite and look forward to performing on all of our upcoming ILS Proton missions for SES.”

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Poised to be the largest satellite in the SES fleet, SES-4 will be positioned at 338 degrees east, and will be replacing NSS-7. The new bird will enhance what is already the largest neighborhood in the Atlantic GEO region.

SES-4 will be a hybrid satellite featuring high powered C-band coverage and incremental global capacity which is ideal for video distribution, government and VSAT services. The satellite’s Ku-band payload will provide enhanced coverage and capacity across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Western Africa and Latin America. SES-4 will bring a substantial increase in the total capacity available at 338 degrees east.

The state-of-the-art spacecraft has been specifically designed for its orbital location, with C-band beams serving the eastern hemisphere of Europe/Africa, full America’s coverage as well as a global beam to support mobile and maritime customers.

Four high powered regional Ku-band beams will provide service to Europe, the Middle East, West Africa, North America and South America with extensive cross-strapping between C- and Ku-band transponders providing enhanced connectivity.

SES-4 sports a total of 52 C-band and 72 Ku-band transponders and has an anticipated service life of 15 years.

This launch was part of a Multi-Launch Agreement (MLA) for ILS, which opened with the launch of SES-1 on April 24, 2010. In addition, SES-3, this mission’s SES-4, QuetzSat-1 and SES-5/ASTRA 4B satellites – which are also involved into the MLA.

“SES had the foresight, several years ago, to create this innovative agreement to provide launch diversity and schedule assurance for the majority of their launch needs,” Mr McKenna added. “With this agreement, SES has taken a sound business approach, in the form of a partnership, to create flexible arrangements to deploy their fleet.

“This expansion of the MLA further underscores the confidence that SES has in ILS Proton.  With these new missions, the ILS and Khrunichev team look forward to delivering the same quality and reliability that SES has counted on for 15 years.”

The agreement currently extends into 2013, for the launch of SES-6, which is being built on Astrium’s Eurostar 3000 platform and is expected to carry 43 C-band and 43 Ku-band transponders to serve SES’s existing cable-television customers and provide capacity for growth.

SES-6 will replace NSS-806 at the orbital location of 319.5 degrees East, and will provide enhanced coverage in North, Central and South America and will further support applications like HD, DTH, enterprise networks and digital inclusion projects in the Latin America region serving over 18 million households.

“The Multi Launch Agreement has allowed us to support the continuous development and replacement of our global satellite fleet, giving us an additional competitive edge,” added Romain Bausch, President and CEO of SES. “With ILS, we have a long history together and we look forward to continue the collaborating with the ILS and Khrunichev teams on Proton in the framework of the extended agreement.”

(Images via ILS and SES/SS/L and Astrium).

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