Officials Hope to Win Back Business for Proton

A Proton takes a nose dive at Baikonur. (Credit: Tsenki TV)
A Proton takes a nose dive at Baikonur. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

Khrunichev and International Launch Services are slashing prices and offering other incentives on its Proton rocket amid a strong and failures and stiff competition from American rival SpaceX.

Taking advantage of the slide in the value of the ruble, officials have slashed Proton flights to $65 million, which is close to what SpaceX charges for a Falcon 9 launch. They are also offering schedule priority to commercial launches and more insight into and access to Khrunichev’s manufacturing and quality control practices.

HISPASAT of Madrid, Spain, recently announced a Proton launch order for a satellite that will fly in the first half of 2017. The company also booked the launch of another satellite aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9.

Proton’s long string of recent failures has depressed launch sales in recent years to the benefit of SpaceX and Arianespace. The table below shows failures over the past five years.

Dec. 5, 2010Proton-M/ Blok-DM-3Uragan-M #739 Uragan-M #740
Uragan-M #741
FailureRocket failed to reach orbital velocity after upper stage overfilled with propellant.
Aug. 17, 2011Proton-M/ Briz-MEkspress AM4
FailureBriz-M upper stage suffered failure of attitude control.
Aug. 6, 2012Proton-M/ Briz-MTelkom-3
Ekspress MD2
FailureBriz-M upper stage failed 7 seconds into its third burn.
Dec. 8, 2012Proton-M/ Briz-MYamal-402Partial FailureBriz-M upper stage shut down 4 minutes earlier than planned on fourth burn. Spacecraft reached intended orbit under own power.
July 2, 2013Proton-M/DM-03Uragan-M #748 Uragan-M #749
Uragan-M #750
FailureFirst stage failure.
May 15, 2014Proton-M/Briz-MEkspress AM4RFailureProton third stage vernier engine failure due to turbo-pump leak.
May 16, 2015Proton/Briz-MMexSat-1FailurePremature third stage steering engine turbo-pump shutdown.

The Proton rocket has failed completely six times in the past five years, destroying 11 satellites in the process. The rocket also suffered a partial failure in 2012 with the premature shutdown of its upper stage. That satellite was able to reach its intended orbit using on-board fuel.

ILS Completes Centenario Proton Launch Failure Investigation

Zarya, the first component of the International Space Station, launches flawlessly at 1:40 a.m. EST on November 20, 1998, from Kazahkstan (Credit: NASA)
Zarya, the first component of the International Space Station, launches flawlessly at 1:40 a.m. EST on November 20, 1998, from Kazahkstan (Credit: NASA)

RESTON, Va. (ILS PR) — The International Launch Services (ILS) Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB) concluded its work, concurring with the most probable cause and the associated corrective action plan which were identified by the Russian Interagency Commission (IAC) as a result of the May 16 Proton launch vehicle failure carrying the Centenario spacecraft.


ILS to Market Angara 1.2 Launch Vehicle

Angara-1.2 launch vehicle on pad at Plesetsk. (Credit: Khrunichev)
Angara-1.2 launch vehicle on pad at Plesetsk. (Credit: Khrunichev)

RESTON, Va. (ILS PR) — International Launch Services (ILS), a global launch services provider for commercial satellite operators, is now actively marketing the Angara 1.2 launch vehicle. The Angara 1.2 vehicle will be available for launch in 2017.  Launches will be conducted from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia. Augmented with the heavy-lift Proton vehicle, ILS now has capability to launch the entire range of satellite masses with both vehicles serving the market.


Criminal Charges Brought Against Khrunichev Employees for Proton Accident

Another fine day for Russia's space program. A Proton crashes with three GLONASS satellites.
Another fine day for Russia’s space program. A Proton crashes with three GLONASS satellites.

If ever there was an incentive for Russia’s youth to take underpaying jobs in that nation’s floundering space industry, this is definitely not one of them:

Employees of Russia’s Khrunichev State Space Research and Production Centre have been charged in connection with the 2013 crash of Proton carrier rocket with Glonass satellites, Investigative Committee’s official spokesman Vladimir Markin said on Wednesday.

The Investigative Committee has completed the investigation into the criminal cases launched after a Proton-M rocket carrying three Glonass navigation satellites crashed in July 2013 seconds after liftoff, he said.

Three employees, Denis Grishin, Alexander Nikolayaev and Diana Gudkova, have been charged with violating safety rules while carrying out works. The head of Russia’s Defence Ministry’s 1653 military representation, Marat Nasibulin, has been charged with negligence.

According to investigators, Grishin, Nikolayev and Gudkova in 2011 were tasked with installing the angular rate sensors on the Proton rocket that are responsible for yaw control.

“As a result of their violation of technical discipline envisaged by engineering and technological documentation, these sensors were installed incorrectly / at 180 degrees from their correct position,” Markin said.

This is not going to attract a new generation of engineers and technicians into the industry. That’s something they badly need after the post-Soviet slump.

Khrunichev Signs 15-Year Deal with Gazprom Space Systems

khrunichevMOSCOW (Khrunichev PR) — On 25 February 2015, Khrunichev Space Center (Khrunichev) and OAO Gazprom Space Systems (GSS) signed a number of documents envisaging expanded strategic cooperation between the two companies.

In furtherance of the Company Rehab Program, Andrey Kalinovsky, Khrunichev Acting CEO, and Nikolai Sevastianov, GSS Designer-General, met at Khrunichev’s Proton assembly facility to sign an agreement on strategic cooperation, and a contract for a Proton launch of GSS’s Yamal-601 communications satellite.


Report: Angara-A5 Could Replace Zenit in Sea Launch

Inaugural Angara A5 launch (Credit: Khrunichev)
Inaugural Angara A5 launch (Credit: Khrunichev)

Here’s some more news about Sea Launch via TASS:

Russia’s new heavy-lift Angara-A5 rocket may replace the Ukrainian Zenit rocket in the Sea Launch project, a source in the space and rocket sector told TASS on Wednesday.

The announcement was made at the recent board of directors meeting of the RKK Energia space corporation. “The documents have already been submitted to the United Rocket and Space Corporation,” the source said.


Angara 5 Launch Successful

First Angara-A5 launch vehicle rolled out to the pad. (Credit: Khrunichev)
First Angara A5 launch vehicle rolled out to the pad. (Credit: Khrunichev)

Russian media are reporting that the first flight test of the new Angara 5 booster was successful on Wednesday from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

The rocket consisted of five Universal Rocket Modules (URM) powered by RD-191 engines clustered as the first stage. Upper stages used on other boosters were to put a dummy payload into geostationary orbit. It’s not clear whether that effort was successful.


Russia to Test Angara 5 on Dec. 23

First Angara-A5 launch vehicle rolled out to the pad. (Credit: Khrunichev)
First Angara A5 launch vehicle rolled out to the pad. (Credit: Khrunichev)

Russia hopes to cap off nearly 20 years of development work with a successful launch of its new Angara A5 rocket on Dec 23.

If all goes well, the new booster will place a dummy payload into orbit. It will be the first orbital launch for the Angara rocket, which was approved in 1995. A smaller version of the rocket, the Angara A1.2, conducted a suborbital flight test in July.


Angara-A5 Rolled Out to Launch Pad at Plesetsk Cosmodrome

First Angara-A5 launch vehicle rolled out to the pad. (Credit: Khrunichev)
First Angara-A5 launch vehicle rolled out to the pad. (Credit: Khrunichev)

PLESETSK COSMODROME, Russia (Khrunichev PR) — On 10 November, the Angara-A5 left the Integration & Testing Facility in Area 41 of the Plesetsk State Test Cosmodrome in the Archangelsk Region. The first-ever rollout of the heavy-lift launch vehicle and its transfer to the Angara multi-purpose launch pad proceeded as planned.

Currently, specialists of the Cosmodrome’s Center for testing and operation of space systems are preparing the Angara-A5 for tests on the Angara multi-purpose launch pad.

The Angara multi-purpose launch pad will be tested for seven days. The tests will include electrical checkouts of Angara-A5 and the Angara multi-purpose launch pad readiness for the Angara-A5 maiden launch.

The maiden launch of heavy-lift Angara-A5 from Plesetsk is scheduled for December 2014.

Proton Returns to Flight as Khrunichev Looks to Compete With SpaceX

Holy shi'ski! The go KABOOMSKI! (Credit: Tsenki TV)
A Proton rocket launches its payloads into Baikonur. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

After being grounded for four months, Russia’s accident prone Proton booster will be back in action Sunday morning with officials once again praying it launches a payload into space rather than back to Earth.

Meanwhile, Russian officials are moving ahead with an expensive plan to overhaul Proton’s builder, Khrunichev, to allow it to compete with American start-up SpaceX on price and to produce a new family of Angara boosters.


Russia Gears Up for Angara 5 Test, Eyes Ending Use of Rockot

Rockot launch vehicle
Rockot launch vehicle

Following a successful suborbital flight of the Angara 1 booster in July, Russian space officials are gearing up to test the larger Angara 5 launch vehicle by the end of the year.

The Khrunichev-built Angara is a modular family of rockets on which additional boosters are added to the first-stage core.  Angara 5 is designed to place 24.5 metric tons of cargo into low Earth orbit (LEO). The smaller Angara 1 can loft 3.8 metric tons to LEO.


Khrunichev Investigation Focuses on Acquisition of ILS Shares

Proton rocket
Proton rocket

In 2008, Khrunichev paid two and a half times more for a 51 percent share in the U.S.-based International Launch Services (ILS) than the company it bought it from had paid only two years earlier, according to Izvestia.

The disparity between the purchase prices has vexed Russian investigators, as have the identities of those who controlled the British Virgin Islands company that sold its shares in ILS to Khrunichev.


Khrunichev Overhaul to Cost Mega Rubles

Holy shi'ski! The go KABOOMSKI! (Credit: Tsenki TV)
A Khrunichev Poton booster launches a satellite into the ground at Baikonur Cosmodrome, (Credit: Tsenki TV)

So, just how bad off are things at accident prone Khrunichev? Try 30 billion rubes ($825 million) worth of bad off.

That’s how much Russian officials estimate it will cost to overhaul the venerable rocket producer, which has been responsible for a series of Proton launch failures over the past four years.

And that’s just a preliminary estimate. Who knows what else will crop up as officials delve deeper into the innards of the troubled company.