The Russian Proton-M launched the Raduga 1M communications satellite at on a nine hour flight to orbit. The Russian workhorse was launching a government payload for the first time since its dramatic failure in July, when it was attempting to loft three satellites for the GLONASS navigation system.
The Proton booster launching 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 upper stage is tasked with the bulk of the flight, with separation not expected until 08:47 UTC on Tuesday.
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 was high the next Proton would successfully return the vehicle to nominal operations.
That confidence was proven, as International Launch Services (ILS) successfully launched both the Return To Flight mission – carrying the the Astra-2E satellite in September, followed by another mission that resulted in the successful deployment of the Sirius FM-6 satellite in October.
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Little is known of the spacecraft that was launched by the Proton-M at 23:46 UTC on Monday, which is not unexpected per Russian government launches. However, it is known this is the third Raduga-1M satellite.
Built by ISS Reshetnev, the bird is based on the Kaur-4 /MSS-767 platform – previously used by the Sesat and Express-AM spacecraft.
It has a total satellite mass: 2600 kg, sporting payload for military/government communications which tentatively includes C, X and L bands assets.
It will be located in Geostationary orbit for its mission in providing communications for the Russian military.
(Images via ILA, Roscosmos and ISS Reshetnev).