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ILS Clears Proton For Launch

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Feb-2013
Updated: 13-Feb-2013 11:41 PM

International Launch Services (ILS) yesterday gave its OK for commercial Proton launches to resume after its Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB) concurred in findings by Russia's space agency and an independent review on the root cause of a December 8, 2012 failure.

The December 8 failure of Proton's Briz-M (Breeze-M) upper stage left the Yamal 402 communications satellite in the wrong orbit.   Satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia was able to use the satellite's stationkeeping engines to raise the orbit to the correct coordinates although the satellite's lifetime was consequently reduced from 15 years to 11 years.

ILS is a U.S.-based company that sells Proton launches on the global market.  It is a subsidiary of Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Center that builds Proton and Briz-M.  Khrunichev received a report last month on the causes of the failure from an independent working group and Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, but the report had to clear Russian security before ILS could see it.

ILS created its own FROB to consider those findings.   In yesterday's announcement, ILS concurred with the findings that the Briz-M failure resulted from  "a combination of adverse conditions which affected the operation of the Breeze M main engine during the startup of the 3rd burn causing damage to a bearing on the oxidizer side of the turbo pump."  The bearing then failed during the 4th burn, which ended 4 minutes early, placing the satellite into a lower than planned orbit. 

ILS said it would resume launches next month.  SatMex 8 is the next satellite scheduled for launch.  The exact date of the launch is to be determined.


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