The Russian Proton-M launched the Ekspress-AM5 communications satellite at on a multi-hour flight to a geostationary orbit via its Briz-M Upper Stage. The Russian workhorse launches from a snowy Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 10:49 UTC on Thursday.
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 20:12 later on Thursday.
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.
However, the vehicle now has several successful launches under its belt since the failure.
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The Ekspress-AM5 satellite has a mass of 3,200 kg and sports 30 C-band, 40 Ku-band, 12 Ka-band, 2 L-band transponders and is expected to have a service life of 15 years. It has 284 kg of xenon and 75 kg of hydrazine for its onboard propellant needs.
Express-AM5 is the first satellite built around ISS-Reshetnev’s heavy-class Express-2000 platform. It was manufactured under a contract with the national operator RSCC (Russian Satellite Communications Company).
The spacecraft is intended to provide digital television and radio broadcasting services across Russia, mobile presidential and government communications, multimedia services (telephony, video conferencing, data transmission, Internet access) as well as solutions based on VSAT network technologies.
This was to be the third Russian launch in the space of just 36 hours. However, while the a Rokot launch vehicle with a Briz-KM Upper Stage successfully launched three Rodnik satellite from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia, the debut of the Soyuz-2-1v was postponed following a scrub at T-10 minutes.
(Images via ILA, Roscosmos and ISS Reshetnev).