International Launch Services (ILS) have returned the Proton-M launch vehicle to flight via the launch of the Astra-2E satellite. Launch from the from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan was on time at 21:38 GMT, resulting in the first Proton-M launch since the dramatic failure of a Russian government launch just seconds after lift-off back in July.
Proton M Launch:
The Proton booster launching Astra-2E is 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.
As a workhorse, the Proton-M has suffered from its fair share of failures, none more dramatic than the July failure, when the rocket rolled from one side to the other, prior to crashing into the cosmodrome.
The Russian government launch was carrying three satellites for the GLONASS navigation system.
With the wreckage crashing back to Earth just a short distance from launch pad, investigators examined the remains of the rocket for a root cause of the failure.
It was soon discovered that a human error was to blame for the failure, one related to the Proton-M’s production, with the angular velocity sensors installed upside down. Numerous engineers and managers were fired as a result.
With the resolution relatively simple, from a quality control during processing standpoint, confidence is high the ILS Proton will successfully return the vehicle to nominal operation.
The mission utilized 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 ASTRA 2E satellite) into a sub-orbital trajectory.
From this point in the mission, the Breeze M performrf 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 geosynchronous transfer orbit.
Separation of the ASTRA 2E satellite occurred approximately 9 hours, 12 minutes after liftoff.
The Astra-2E will carry Ku- and Ka-band payloads for the delivery of high-performance Direct-to-Home (DTH) and next generation broadband services in Europe, Middle East and Africa.
In total, the 6,020 kg bird – based on the Eurostar E3000 Platform – sports 60 Ku-band transponders, four Ka-band transponders – of which 1 is interconnected, and has an anticipated service life of 15 years.
Built by Astrium, ASTRA 2E will bring replacement and growth capacity at 28.2 degrees East to enhance SES’ fleet of over 50 geostationary satellites, and ensure reliable and secure connectivity to over 99 percent of the world’s population.
The mission marks the fifth ILS Proton launch this year, the 82nd ILS Proton launch overall, the 23rd SES satellite launched on ILS Proton and the 17th Astrium satellite to be lofted by the Proton.
(Images via ILS).