International Launch Services (ILS) has conducted its final launch of the year, with the Russian Proton M launching the ASTRA 2G satellite from Pad 39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launch is took place at 21:37 GMT on Saturday, ahead of over nine hours of flight to spacecraft separation – concluding a successful mission.
The Proton booster 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 deep heritage, as it passed the 400 launch mark this year – a total that ranges back to its inception in 1965.
The Proton’s lead designer was Vladimir Chelomei, who designed it with the intention of creating both a powerful rocket for military payloads and a high-performance ICBM. The program was changed, and the rocket was developed exclusively for launching spacecraft.
First named UR-500, but adopted the name “Proton”, which also was the name of the first three payloads launched. Proton’s history includes interplanetary missions to the Moon, Venus, Mars, and Halley’s Comet.
It also launched the Salyut space stations, the Mir core segment and both the Zarya (Dawn) and Zvezda (Star) modules for the current International Space Station.
It 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 utilizes two new high-pressure tanks (80 liters) to replace six smaller tanks, along with the relocation of command instruments towards the center – in order to mitigate shock loads when the additional propellant tank is being jettisoned.
For this mission, five burns of the Breeze M were scheduled.
The first three stages of the Proton used a standard ascent profile to place the orbital unit (Breeze M Upper Stage and the ASTRA 2G 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 geosynchronous transfer orbit.
Separation of the ASTRA 2G satellite occurred approximately 9 hours, 12 minutes after liftoff.
“It is an honor to launch our 24th mission for our longstanding customer SES. From our very first ILS Proton mission with SES’s ASTRA 2F in 1996 to today’s launch, we are pleased to enable the growth of industry innovator, SES for eighteen years,” noted ILS President Phil Slack.
“The teams at SES, Airbus Defence and Space, Khrunichev and ILS are to be commended for their tireless efforts and dedication to the success of the mission.”
ASTRA 2G is the third spacecraft of a three satellite investment program (ASTRA 2E, 2F, and 2G) that SES contracted with Airbus Defence and Space in order to provide replacement as well as incremental satellite capacity in the orbital arc of 28.2/28.5 degrees East.
It sports 62 Ku-band transponders and 4 Ka-band transponders, including 1 interconnect. The different beams provide wide coverage over the UK and Ireland, Europe and West Africa.
Based on the Eurostar E3000 Platform, it has a separated spacecraft mass of 6,020 kg and is operate for 15 years.
The ASTRA 2G satellite will also support SATMED, an e-health platform conceived by SES and supported by the Luxembourg Government and the Ministry for Cooperation and Humanitarian Action is a satellite based communication solution aimed to improve public health in emerging and developing countries.
“ILS Proton has now launched nearly half of our operational fleet,” added Martin Halliwell, Chief Technology Officer of SES.
“ASTRA 2G will enhance and secure existing offerings to major direct-to-home (DTH) markets in the UK and Ireland, while meeting the requirements of some of the largest DTH broadcasters in Europe. Its Ka-band capabilities will be a critical communication link between West Africa and Europe.
“We thank all of the teams for their work on this important mission.”
This launch was the final ILS Proton mission in 2014.
(Images via ILS).