Spaceflight Insider

Cupid’s got nothing on Proton as rocket delivers Turksat-4A to orbit

International Launch Services launched a Proton Briz-M rocket from Baikonur Cormodrone with the Turksat 4A satellite at 4:09 p.m. EST (2109 GMT). This is an image from an earlier launch. Photo Credit: ILS

The steppes of Kazakhstan trembled under the fury unleashed by an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton Briz-M rocket. Liftoff occurred at 4:09 p.m. EST (21:09 GMT) from the Baikonur, Cosmodrome’s Launch Pad 24. The payload for today’s launch was the Turksat-4A communications satellite which will provide a variety of services to points in Europe, Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Turksat-4A was constructed by Mitsubishi Electric (MELCO) using the company’s DS2000 standard communications satellite platform (Turksat-4A was the 9th spacecraft to use this design). Turksat-4A has 28 Ku-band transponders, two Ka-band transponders and an undisclosed amount of C-band transponders. It has a communications capacity of some 2084 megahertz (MHz). It will use them to broadcast television signals as well as direct TV broadcasting services. Turksat-4A is designed to provide high flexibility of switchability and connectivity to its customers.

The launch of Turksat-4A is the first of two Turksat spacecraft planned to be sent into orbit this year. After launched Turksat-4B  will reside at 50 degrees east.

The Turksat 4A can be seen in this image arriving at Baikonur for integration with the Proton Briz-M launch vehicle. Photo Credit: ILS

The Turksat-4A can be seen in this image arriving at Baikonur for integration with the Proton Briz-M launch vehicle. Photo Credit: ILS

Each of these satellites has a planned operational life of about 15 years. The duo were planned to be launched in late 2013 and early 2014 respectively; however, this did not take place primarily due to concerns with the Proton launch vehicle.

ILS used its premier heavy-lift booster to send Turksat-4A on its way. Developed by engineers working under Vladimir Cheolmei in the 1960s, the Proton was supposed to be a counter to Sergei Korolev’s massive N-1 booster (the N-1 was launched three times – each a failure). The Proton has been launched more than 360 times it is constructed by ILS majority owner Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with our new customer MELCO and look forward to integrating and launching Turksat-4A and Turksat-4B on ILS Proton. We are committed to MELCO in their responsibility to deliver both satellites on orbit on time for their customer, Turksat,” said ILS President, Frank McKenna in a release issued when the agreement to launch Turksat-4A on Proton was announced.

Today's launch was the first Proton launched this year by International Launch Services as well as the first time the rocket has been used to carry a Turksat payload. Photo Credit: ILS

Today’s launch was the first Proton launched this year by International Launch Services as well as the first time the rocket has been used to carry a Turksat payload. Photo Credit: ILS

For their part, MELCO noted the Proton’s record as one of the key considerations behind why the launch vehicle was tapped to provide the Turksats with a ride to geostationary orbit.

“We selected ILS based on their track record of  reliability, precision, launch tempo and experience. ILS and Khrunichev’s reputation for quality assurance and delivery performance will be crucial to our delivery of the Turksat 4A and 4B satellites. We have been preparing mutual compatibility efforts with ILS for many years, and [we] look forward to preparing to launch on the powerful ILS Proton vehicle, which satisfies the customer requirements,” said Hiroyuki Inahata head of space systems division for MELCO.

Mitsubishi Electric has been involved in more than 440 domestic and international satellites as both the primary contractor or as a subcontractor.

The six first stage RD-276 rocket engines in the Proton’s first stage loudly roared to life at the opening of the launch window, about three seconds afterward, the rocket begin its ascent to orbit. With 2.5 million pounds of thrust at launch, the Proton Briz-M is capable of hoisting payloads weighing 14,800 lbs (6,700 kilograms) into geostationary orbit. Given that Turksat-4A weighs in at approximately 10,800 lbs (4,900 kilograms), today’s mission was well within the launch vehicle’s capabilities.

The Proton Briz-M rocket and payload were moved out to Launch Pad 24 on Feb. 13. Photo Credit: ILS

The Proton Briz-M rocket and payload were moved out to Launch Pad 24 on Feb. 13. Photo Credit: ILS

In the days prior to today’s launch the Proton Briz-M launch vehicle was rolled out to the Integration-and-Test Facility (IFT) 92A-50 to the Briz-M fueling shed where the rocket’s high-pressure tanks were loaded with propellants. After this was completed, the Briz-M was moved back over to the IFT where the processing flow to connect the Turksat-4A spacecraft to the Proton’s upper stage. The Breeze M will then be rolled back to IFT for further processing as required for mating Breeze M to the spacecraft. The combined Turksat-4A and Proton Briz-M were placed through a battery of tests to ensure that both were functioning properly.

About a minute into the flight the rocket and its precious cargo were traveling faster than the speed of sound and about to enter the flight’s most dangerous point. Known as the region of maximum dynamic pressure or “max Q” – the launch vehicle’s speed conspires in a way with the Earth’s atmosphere in this region to place the rocket under the greatest amount of stress.

The first three stages of today’s launch used a standard profile to place the Turksat-4A payload as well as the Briz-M upper stage on a sub-orbital trajectory. Briz-M took over at this stage of the flight, working to place the satellite in a circular parking orbit, it then proceeded to push it into an intermediate orbit, then transfer orbit and then finally a geostationary transfer orbit. At approximately 9 hours and 13 minutes into the flight, Turksat-4A should separate from the Briz-M upper stage and be on its own.

The Turksat-4A’s target orbit will see it approach closest to the Earth (known as perigee) of some (9,673 kilometers) and farthest away from our world (apogee) at (35,786 kilometers). The satellite will have an inclination of 12.7 degrees.

Today’s launch was the first use of an ILS Proton this year as well as the first time Turksat has used ILS as a launch service provider. Overall ILS has launched 85 Proton rockets with a wide range of payloads.

Turksat Satellite Communication and Cable TV Operation AS  (Turksat AS) is a satellite service provider located in Turkey. Turksat AS provides telecommunications services to a variety of points around the globe. The company offers high-quality digital broadcasting services, flexible satellite cable, wireless broadcasting, high-speed Internet, and direct-to-home broadcasting services.

Video courtesy of Spacevidsnet

 

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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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