Errant Satellite Reaches Intended Orbit as Investigation Begins

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Proton rocket

Thales Alenia Space engineers have placed the Yamal-402 communications satellite in its proper geosynchronous orbit after a botched launch by Russia’s Proton launch vehicle.

The recovery effort involved four firings of the satellite’s on-board propulsion system. Media reports indicate that this will reduce the spacecraft’s on-orbit lifetime from 15 to 11 years.

Thales Alenia Space built the Yamal-402 satellite for Gazprom Space Systems.

Meanwhile, an investigation has begun into the failure of the Proton rocket’s Breeze-M upper stage, which stopped firing earlier than planned during its final burn.

International Launch Services, which markets the Khrunichev-built Proton for the Russian launch vehicle manufacturer, describes the investigation in a press release:

December 14, 2012 – International Launch Services (ILS) and Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center (Khrunichev) announce that a Russian commission has convened and an investigation is underway to determine the root cause of the December 8 ILS Proton launch anomaly with the Yamal 402 satellite.

The anomaly occurred during the 4th and final burn of the Breeze M engine during a planned 9 hour and 15 minute mission. The 4th burn ended about four minutes early and the spacecraft was subsequently separated. The satellite had been built by Thales Alenia Space for Russian satellite operator, Gazprom Space Systems.

The Russian commission, convened by Khrunichev, will include independent experts from TsNIIMash (Central Scientific Research Institute of Machine Building), the leading institution of Roscosmos to support design, development and research into rocket and space articles, and M.V. Keldysh Research Center, the leading Russian entity for rocket engines. In parallel with the Russian commission, ILS will form its own Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB).  The FROB will consist of representatives from ILS customers, insurance underwriters and technical experts from the industry. The FROB will review the commission’s findings and corrective action plan, in accordance with U.S. and Russian government export control regulations.

Additional information on the status of the investigation will be provided as it becomes available.