ILS Proton M successfully launches AsiaSat-9

by Chris Bergin

International Launch Services (ILS) is upping the pace of its Proton-M launches with another mission following on closely from its Amazonas 5 success. The Russian workhorse – along with its Breeze-M upper stage partner – successfully conducted the launch of the AsiaSat-9 satellite from 200/39 site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launch occurred at 18:52 UTC.

ILS Proton-M Launch:

This latest launch carried the satellite on a nine hour launch profile, as is standard for ILS launches, with Geostationary satellites its main customer.

The AsiaSat 9 communications satellite is a SSL 1300 platform spacecraft, with a spacecraft mass of approximately 6,140 kg (13,536 lbs). It will be lofted by the Proton Breeze M that weighs in at 705,000 kg (1,554,000 lbs), including payload.

The Proton vehicle – which has a rich heritage of over 400 launches since 1965 – is conducting its third ILS mission since its latest stand down.

June’s successful launch with EchoStar XXI came after a one year wait when an underperformance was noted with the 2016 mission with the Intelsat-31 launch. It was followed up by the Amazonas 5 success.

The rocket 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 rocket was the brain child of 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.

It was first named the UR-500, but adopted the name “Proton”, which also was the name of the first three payloads launched.

Proton has launched Russian interplanetary missions to the Moon, Venus, Mars, and Halley’s Comet. Proton also launched the Salyut space stations, the Mir core segment and both the Zarya (Dawn) and Zvezda (Star) modules for today’s International Space Station.

It began commercial launches in 1996.

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 Breeze M Upper Stage is powered by one pump-fed gimbaled main engine that develops thrust of 20 kN (4,500 lbf). It is composed of a central core and an auxiliary propellant tank which is jettisoned in flight following depletion.

The Breeze M control system includes an on-board computer, a three-axis gyro stabilized platform, and a navigation system. The quantity of propellant carried is dependent on specific mission requirements and is varied to maximize mission performance.

The mission profile called for a 5-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 AsiaSat 9 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 nearly circular parking orbit, then to an intermediate orbit, followed by a transfer orbit, and finally to a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Separation of the AsiaSat 9 satellite occurred approximately 9 hours, 13 minutes after lift-off.

AsiaSat 9 will be AsiaSat’s most powerful satellite to date. It is designed to deliver significantly improved power and higher bandwidth usage to generate higher efficiency for customers’ services.

It is a replacement satellite for AsiaSat 4 at 122°E with multiple C, Ku and Ka-Band payloads. It carries the world’s first dedicated Ku-band Myanmar beam, new Ku-band beams for Indonesia and Mongolia, in addition to two enhanced Ku-band beams serving Australasia and East Asia and a wider high-power C-band coverage across the Asia-Pacific region.

The five Ku-band beams onboard AsiaSat 9 are equipped with cross-strap beam switching capability to provide flexible coverage for an estimated lifetime of 15 years.

The launch was aiming to transport the satellite to an apogee of 35,786 km (22,236 miles) and a perigee of 4045 km (2513 miles), with an inclination of 23.4 degrees. ILS noted a successful mission shortly after the flight was completed.

This launch was the 96th ILS Proton launch, the 416th Proton launch overall. This was the fifth AsiaSat satellite launched on ILS Proton, the 31st SSL satellite overall to be launched on a Proton.

(Images via ILS, SSL and Roscosmos).

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