Investigators: Proton Lifted Off Early with Improperly Installed Control Sensors

Holy shi'ski! The rocket...it go KABOOMSKI! (Credit: Tsenki TV)
Holy shi’ski! The rocket…it go KABOOMSKI! (Credit: Tsenki TV)

The Commission investigating the failure of the Proton rocket have concluded that the rocket lifted off .4 seconds early and then went out of control because three sensors designed to keep it on course were installed upside down.

“The Commission reached the following conclusions as a result of its work:

  • the cause of the emergency start launch vehicle technology is a violation of the installation of three two-level systems via the yaw on the “Proton-M” in the Federal State Unitary Enterprise “Khrunichev. Khrunichev “;
  • applied methods and techniques of control during ground training and testing under the current design, technological and operational documents do not reveal improper installation on the CRS RN;
  • defect manifested itself in flight, has a production nature.

The commission continues its investigation in order to establish the causes of the premature liftoff [of the Proton] from docking mechanism on the launch pad.”

Read the full Roscosmos press release below. It’s a bit rough because it was translated from Russia via Google Translate, but most of it is fairly clear.

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Missile launch vehicle (LV) “Proton-M” with the upper stage (RB) DM-03 and the space vehicle (SV) “Glonass-M” was made July 2, 2013 at 6:00 38 minutes 21.585 seconds Moscow time from the start complex area 81 Baikonur cosmodrome.

Accident Launch Vehicle (ILV) occurred at ~ 32,682 from the flight due to the loss of yaw stabilization of the channel due to abnormal functioning of the angular rate sensors (CRS), the control system of “Proton-M”. Failure of the structure and its component parts RCN occurred outside the launch facility. No injuries or damage. The task of launching the Glonass-M into orbit failed.

To determine the reasons for emergency start launcher and make necessary recommendations by joint decision of the Defense Ministry and the Russian Federal Space Agency create on July 2, 2013 the Interdepartmental commission headed by the deputy head of the Russian Federal Space Agency A.P. Lopatina.

Commission analyzed the design, technological and operational documentation of “Proton-M”, the processes of manufacturing, testing, transportation, storage and testing of components RCN, studied the material part of the emergency RSC, as well as analysis of the received telemetry and external trajectory information and comprehensive analysis of the causes emergency start launch vehicle based on the results of the experiments.

The Commission found that during the formation of the signal start launch vehicle “Contact lifting” comes before the actual gathering space rocket launcher with support for 0.4 seconds before the calculated time. The reason for the early formation of the signal and “KP” could be premature undocking from the space rocket docking mechanism elektropnevmorazemov trigger the launch complex. Given the results of the analysis of telemetry data and conducted flight simulation RCN, the commission found that the premature formation and how the signal “contact rise” could be the cause of the accident.

Experiments to elucidate the causes of substandard performance of CRS via yaw confirmed the possibility of incorrect installation (coup devices at 180 ° during installation) with a nominal connecting the connectors.

At the crash site RKN commission was organized search of the components, including the two-level system of governance “Proton-M”. Devices are found, inspected, packaged, sealed and sent to the manufacturer for PH research.

As a result of the research committee found that on connecting surfaces of three of the six units are characteristic traces of force action similar to the following that appeared after the experiment by abnormal installation of the devices. Location impressions of force action on the relative position and size of the shift is almost completely coincided with the location of the device on the model that was used in the experiment.

The results of the work of the Commission has reached the following conclusions:

  • the cause of the emergency start launch vehicle technology is a violation of the installation of three two-level systems via the yaw on the “Proton-M” in the Federal State Unitary Enterprise “Khrunichev. Khrunichev “;
  • applied methods and techniques of control during ground training and testing under the current design, technological and operational documents do not reveal improper installation on the CRS RN;
  • defect manifested itself in flight, has a production nature.

In order to establish the causes of premature undocking from docking mechanism RCN elektropnevmorazemov trigger the launch complex commission continues.