Proton, Rockot Set to Re-enter Service in September

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

Russia’s troubled Proton rocket is set to re-enter service in September after investigators determined the causes of a failure that destroyed three satellites. The Rockot launch vehicle also will fly again during the same month using a failure-prone upper stage motor officials say has been fixed.

An inter-departmental commission has confirmed that the failure of a Proton rocket on July 2 was caused by three angular rate sensors being installed upside down. The launch vehicle, which carried three advanced GLONASS satellites, went out of control and crashed in a fireball at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The commission instructed the maker to change the design of angular rate sensors for rockets in order to rule out a possibility of wrong installation. The commission also stressed to equip sites of the rocket assembly, photo- and video recording, Lopatin said.

Sensors’ makers do not recognize their guilty, he said, adding, “No violations have been revealed when sensors are installed. The work is practically over. Totally, six rockets have been checked.”

Till the year end the Russian Federal Space Agency hopes to make four or five launches of a Proton rocket. The first launch with a foreign satellite is planning to be held in September.

Meanwhile, Rocosmos head Vladimir Popovkin said on Monday that a Rockot launch vehicle is scheduled to carry a Gonets communications satellite into orbit in early September using a Breeze-KM upper stage. Popovkin said problems in the manufacture of the upper stage have been resolved.

In January, a Breeze-KM upper stage aboard a Rockot reportedly malfunctioned, resulting in the loss of one of three satellites. Controllers were unable to maneuver the upper stage into a lower orbit for rapid re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

On Feb. 1, 2011, a Breeze-KM upper stage stranded the Geo-IK-2 satellite in a useless orbit after an otherwise successful Rockot launch. The spacecraft re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on July 15 and burned up.

Both the Proton and the Breeze-KM upper stage are manufactured by Khrunichev. Officials have taken steps to improve quality control at the troubled rocket maker.

Read more below:

Failure of three angular rate sensors confirmed as reason for Proton-M crash, ITAR-TASS

Rokot launches will resume in first half of September – Popovkin (Part 2), Interfax