ILS Proton-M successfully lofts SES-6

by Chris Bergin

International Launch Services (ILS) launched their Proton-M rocket again from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launch occurred at 09:18 GMT, with the Proton’s Briz-M (Breeze-M) Upper Stage successfully deploying the SES-6 communications satellite into its super-synchronous transfer orbit after over 15 hours of flight.

Proton M Launch:

The Proton booster that launched 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).

SES-8's Proton M being rolled to the launch sitePowered 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 Proton M launch vehicle is utilizing a five 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 SES-6 satellite) into a sub-orbital trajectory.

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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 super-synchronous transfer orbit.

Separation of the SES-6 satellite occurred approximately 15 hours, 31 minutes after liftoff.

“This is a momentous occasion that we share with SES. Our relationship goes back two decades, starting with the signing of the first commercial Proton launch agreement – for the ASTRA 1F satellite,” noted ILS President Phil Slack.

“We thank SES for continuing to entrust us with their business, with this 22nd launch. I also want to thank all of the teams involved at SES, Astrium, Khrunichev and ILS for their tireless work leading up to this successful launch of SES-6.”

SES-6The Astrium-built SES-6 communications satellite is based on the E3000 Platform and has a mass of 6,100 kg.

SES-6 is a multipurpose satellite will be replacing NSS-806 at 319.5 degrees east to provide significant capacity expansion over North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and Atlantic Ocean region.

The satellite’s expanded Ku-band payload will support DTH platforms, VSAT services and government digital inclusion programs throughout Latin America. The C-band payload will add incremental capacity to support channel growth at this key cable neighborhood.

With three C-band 36 MHz equivalent transponders and 48 Ku-band 36 MHz equivalent transponders, the bird is expected to have a service life of 15 years.

“With this launch we are able to fulfil demand in Latin America and the Caribbean, where we are seeing rapid growth. We will also be able to provide uninterrupted coverage for our customers in the Americas and Europe,” added Romain Bausch, SES CEO.

“Our long-standing relationship with ILS and Khrunichev should be attributed to their flexibility, their robust vehicle and their stout determination. We look forward to our continued partnership and future launches.”

This was the fourth ILS Proton launch of 2013 and the 81st ILS Proton launch overall. It also marked the 22nd SES satellite and the 16th Astrium satellite to be launched on the Proton, but only the second Commercial SSTO mission.

(Images via ILS and Astrium).

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