International Launch Services (ILS) launched their Proton-M rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Saturday (13:12 GMT). However, the Proton’s Briz-M (Breeze-M) Upper Stage suffered an anomaly during its fourth and final burn, deploying the Yamal-402 communications satellite in an area outside of its desired orbit.
Proton M Launch:
The Proton booster that was used to launch 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 Briz-M (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 successfully carried out the departure from Earth, prior to the utilization of a four-burn Breeze-M mission design.
The first three stages of the Proton used a standard ascent profile to place the orbital unit (Breeze M upper stage and the Yamal 402 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 Yamal 402 satellite was scheduled to occur approximately 9 hours, 15 minutes after liftoff. However, Roscosmos are reporting the fourth and final burn cut off 240 seconds ahead of schedule. The fourth burn was supposed to last for nearly nine minutes.
“Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center (Khrunichev) and International Launch Services (ILS) regret to announce an anomaly during the launch of the Yamal 402 satellite. The satellite had been built by Thales Alenia Space for Russian satellite operator, Gazprom Space Systems,” noted an ILS release.
“Preliminary flight information indicates that the fourth and final burn of the Breeze M engine ended about four minutes early and subsequently separated the spacecraft.”
The satellite does have its own propulsion systems that may allow it to eventually find an operational orbit.
“Thales Alenia Space is recalculating all the Launch Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) parameters in order to propose the possible recovery plans to Gazprom Space Systems,” added the release.
“A Russian State Commission will begin the process of determining the reasons for the anomaly. ILS will release details when data becomes available. In parallel with the State Commission, ILS will form its own Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB). The FROB will review the commission’s final report and corrective action plan, in accord with U.S. and Russian government export control regulations.”
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This was ILS’ third mission since the Proton workhorse returned to flight, following the Russian Federal Telkom-3/Express MD-2 mission failure – also caused by the Briz-M upper stage – that occurred on August 7.
The Yamal 402 communications satellite – providing it can be rescured from its current situation – is set to operate at 55 degrees east longitude and provide services to Russia, CIS countries, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It is expected to have a service life of 15 years.
The all Ku-band satellite sports 66 equivalent 36 MHz transponders, which will compose four fixed beams (Russian, Northern, European, Southern) and one steerable beam.
JSC Gazprom Space Systems has ensured the development of the ground infrastructure based on ground stations and technical control means provided by Thales Alenia Space. With the addition of the Yamal 402 JSC Gazprom Space Services will strengthen their position in the global satellite industry.
Overall, this was the eighth ILS Proton launch in 2012, 77th ILS Proton launch, the first for Gazprom Space Systems Satellite launched on ILS Proton, and the eighth Thales Alenia Space Satellite Launched on ILS Proton. One more launch is scheduled for 2012, although this is now likely to be delayed until 2013, pending the time and findings of the investigation boards.
(Images via ILS).