International Launch Services (ILS) launched their Proton-M rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday at 19:07 GMT. The Proton’s Briz-M (Breeze-M) Upper Stage then completed its task via a multi-hour mission to deploy the Satmex 8 telecommunications satellite into its desired transfer 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 Briz-M’s previous ILS mission suffered a failure during the third burn with the Yamal 402 satellite.
An ILS Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB) have investigated the issues with the Yamal 402 Proton launch anomaly which occurred on December 8, 2012 – concluding the problem occurred due to a combination of adverse conditions which affected the operation of the Breeze M main engine during the start-up of the third burn.
The Upper Stage has since flown successfully in tandem with a Rokot launch in January.
For the Satmex 8 mission, the Proton M utilized a 5-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 Satmex 8 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 Satmex 8 satellite was on schedule, approximately 9 hours, 13 minutes after liftoff.
Satmex 8 is a high-power C- and Ku-band satellite that will replace Satmex 5 and will provide fixed satellite services in North, Central and South Americas.
This new satellite will provide enhanced performance and capacity to the coverage area. Satmex 8 will improve the current continental and regional services for video contribution, video distribution, broadband, cellular backhaul and distance learning.
Built on SSL’s 1300 Platform. the 5,474 kg satellite is expected to have a service life of 15 years.
Tuesday’s launch was the first ILS Proton mission of 2013, marking the 78th ILS Proton launch overall. It was the first ILS mission with a Satmex satellite, whilst it was the 25th SSL satellite to be launched on the ILS Proton.
(Images via ILS and Khrunichev).