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Proton-M launches Blagovest 12L satellite for Russian Aerospace Forces

Proton-M image credit Roscosmos via SpaceFlight 101

Photo Credit: Roscosmos via SpaceFlight 101

The Russian military has expanded its fleet of communications satellites with the launch of the Blagovest 12L spacecraft on Wednesday, April 18.

The military comsat lifted off atop a Proton-M launcher at 6:12 p.m. EDT (22:12 GMT) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Due to military nature of the mission, very little information has been given about the flight as well as pre-launch preparations. It is only known that the launch was initially targeted for December 25, 2017, but problems with one of the satellite’s components forced Russia to postpone the mission several times.

On February 7, 2018, ISS Reshetnev, the satellite’s manufacturer, informed that the mission was on schedule for launch in April.

“The customer has drawn up a schedule of launches and we are following it. The satellite is ready from December for its delivery. We are preparing for the launch in April,” Nikolai Testoyedov, CEO of Reshetnev told the TASS press agency.

One month later, ISS Reshetnev announced that the satellite was delivered to Baikonur in early March of 2018.

Powered by its six RD-275M engines, the Proton-M thundered off the launch pad on Wednesday to complete a short vertical ascent after which it started heading in a northeasterly direction. The rocket’s first stage finished its job one minute and 58 seconds into the flight when it was detached from the launch vehicle.

Next, the second stage took control of the flight, powering the mission for about three and a half minutes, until its separation at T+5:27 minutes. Once the second stage detached, the third stage continued the mission for approximately four minutes, when it separated some nine minutes and 42 seconds after liftoff.

Afterward, the longest phase of the flight commenced, during which the rocket’s Briz-M upper stage is tasked with the delivery of the payload into a geostationary orbit. This part of the flight should last around nine hours.

ISS Reshetnev describes Blagovest 12L as a high-capacity telecommunications satellite which is designed to provide high-speed data transmission services. It is based on the company’s Express 2000 satellite platform, which is capable of hosting payloads of up to one metric ton. The bus offers three-axis stabilization, precise station-keeping capabilities and can combine chemical and electric propulsion systems.

Equipped with two deployable solar arrays, Blagovest 12L hosts a high-throughput payload provided by Thales Alenia Space. The spacecraft operates in the Ka-Band frequency and the Q-Band Extremely High-Frequency Range. This makes it one of the first satellites to operationally use Q-Band communications supporting higher bandwidths.

Blagovest 12L is intended to deliver high-speed internet access, communications, television and radio broadcasting services, as well as telephonic and video conferencing, for a designed lifetime of some 15 years. If everything goes as it is planned, it will offer its services from a geosynchronous orbit.

Russia intends to have an operational quartet of Blagovest satellites in orbit. The first Blagovest spacecraft, designated 11L, was launched on Aug. 17, of last year (2017). According to TASS, Russia’s Defense Ministry plans to orbit the remaining two satellites, 13L and 14L, by 2020.

The 190-foot tall (58-meter) Proton-M booster, which was utilized to deliver Blagovest 12L to orbit, measures some 13.5 feet (4.1 meters) in diameter along its second and third stages. It’s first stage has a diameter of approximately 24.3 feet (7.4 meters).

In order to deploy Blagovest 12L, the Proton-M rocket flew in a configuration that included a Briz-M upper stage, which is powered by a pump-fed gimbaled main engine. This stage is composed of a central core and an auxiliary propellant tank that is jettisoned in-flight after the depletion of the stage’s fuel. The Briz-M control system includes an onboard computer, a three-axis gyro stabilized platform, and a navigation system.

Russia’s next flight is currently scheduled for April 25, when a Rokot launcher is scheduled to lift off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, carrying the Sentinel-3B Earth-observing satellite for the European Space Agency.

 

 

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Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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