Proton Breeze-M launches with Sirius FM-6
Coming off the heels of a very tumultuous period, the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos sent a Proton Breeze-M rocket aloft at 2:08 p.m. EDT (18:08 p.m.GMT) Friday, Oct. 25 from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Launch Pad 39. Today’s flight served to bolster confidence in the Proton launch vehicle after the July 2, 2013 launch of a Proton rocket which saw the launch vehicle spin around, break apart and slam into the steppes of Kazakhstan, culminating in a massive fireball, the dressing down of then-head of Roscosmos, Vladimir Popovkin by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his replacement by Former Deputy Defense Minister Oleg Ostapenko.
The accident was very embarrassing and the root cause of the failure served to provide the Russian Space Agency with another black eye. A report on RT.com includes the following statement by the deputy head of Roscosmos:
The deputy head of Russia’s space agency Roskosmos Aleksandr Lopatin says, “The failure occurred due to loss of stabilization and fishtailing due to abnormal functioning of an angular velocity sensor.” He added that it had probably been installed upside down.
Video courtesy of ILS / Spacevidsnet
Due to this problem, the rocket’s onboard guidance computer was unable to correct the Proton’s trajectory and under the extreme stress of the spiral the launch vehicle was undergoing, it broke apart before plunging into the ground and exploding. The total flight lasted only about 30 seconds and marked the seventh Proton failure.
The July disaster saw the loss of not one, but three Russian GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System) satellites – the Russian equivalent of GPS.
The launch of Sirius FM-6 was pushed back from the original liftoff date of August 14. This was done to give investigators time to review the cause of the July 2 failure and to implement any needed changes.
ILS describes the separated spacecraft as having a mass of 13, 234 pounds (6,003 kilograms).
Today’s launch was not the first post-accident Proton launch. On September 29, the Proton launch vehicle returned to service with the delivery of the Astra 2E satellite to geosynchronous orbit. It had been scheduled to launch on Oct. 20, but was postponed for at least 24 hours due to issues with the satellite ground station network required for the launch and early orbital operations of the Sirius FM-6 spacecraft.
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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.