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Proton delivers Astra-2G
On Dec. 28, 2014, a Proton-M/Briz-M rocket launched the Astra-2G communications satellite for the Luxembourg-based operator SES, making the final Russian orbital launch attempt of the year.
Previous Proton mission: Yamal-401
Above: A Proton-M rocket lifts off with the Astra-2G satellite on Dec. 28, 2014.
Above: Ground track, flight profile and a timeline of the Proton mission to deliver the Astra-2G satellite on Dec. 28, 2014. (The timeline will be updated with factual information)
The Proton-M/Briz-M rocket with the Astra-2G communications satellite lifted off from Pad No. 39 at Site 200 in Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 28, 2014, at 00:37 Moscow Time (4:37 p.m. EST on December 27).
At the conclusion of the countdown, the ignition sequence was initiated 2.5 seconds before the rocket left the pad. Around 1.75 seconds before liftoff, six engines of the first stage should reach 40 percent of their full thrust (known as Stage 1 ignition). The full thrust should be reached just 0.9 seconds before liftoff.
Following a vertical ascent, the Proton headed east to enter an initial parking orbit with an inclination 51.5 degrees toward the Equator. The rocket overcame the maximum dynamic pressure of the atmosphere one minute and two seconds after leaving the pad. The first, second and third stages of the launch vehicle were programmed to use a standard ascent profile to release the payload section including the Astra-2G satellite and the Briz-M upper stage into a suborbital trajectory.
The Briz-M was also programmed to execute a routine flight profile for Proton's commercial missions, which include five engine firings over the course of a nine-hour, 12-minute orbital insertion process. It should be concluded with a release of the Astra-2G satellite into a 4,163 by 35,736-kilometer orbit with an inclination 23.0 degrees toward the Equator at 09:49 Moscow Time.
The satellite will later use its own propulsion system to enter a final geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers above the Equator.
The Astra 2G satellite was designed and manufactured by Airbus Defense and Space for SES of Luxembourg. Based on the Eurostar E3000 platform, the satellite will have a launch mass over 6 metric tons.
According to the International Launch Services, ILS, Astra-2G is the third spacecraft of a three satellite fleet (also including 2E and 2F birds), that SES contracted with Airbus Defence and Space in order to provide replacement as well as incremental increase in satellite capacity in the orbital arc of 28.2 and 28.5 degrees East. Astra-2G carries 62 Ku-band transponders as well as 4 Ka-band transponders. The different beams provide wide coverage over the UK and Ireland, Europe and West Africa.
Known specifications of the Astra-2G satellite:
According to the European consortium Airbus Defense and Space, in November 2009, it was selected by SES S.A. of Luxembourg to develop four satellites: Astra-2E, Astra-2F, Astra-2G and Astra-5B. The first of these satellites -- Astra-2F -- was launched on an Ariane-5 rocket in 2012. The second bird, Astra-2E flew on Proton in September 2013. The launch of Astra-2G was previously planned for September 2014.
2014 Oct. 23: A Briz-M upper stage for the Astra-2G mission is delivered to Baikonur.
2014 Oct. 29: The Astra-2G comsat was delivered to Baikonur a day late. During the flight from Touluse to Moscow and to Baikonur, due to increased temperature in the 4th engine of the An-124-100 Ruslan aircraft, resulting in an emergency landing in Ulyanovsk at the hub of the Volga-Dnepr transport company, which operated the aircraft. The following inspection of the plane cleared it for flight.
2014 Nov. 7-8: A Briz-M upper stage is delivered to a fueling station for loading of the high-pressure tanks. It was then returned to Site 92-A50 for integration with the satellite. In the meantime, GKNPTs Khrunichev, the manufacturer of the launch vehicle, denied reports that Proton-M/Briz-M's poor performance during the launch of the Ekspress-AM6 satellite on October 21 had prompted insurers of the Astra-2G satellite to demand a delay of the upcoming mission.
2014 Nov. 10: According to the International Launch Services, ILS, first day of fueling of the Astra-2G spacecraft was completed on schedule. In other launch operations, the Briz-M stage was brought back to Hall 101 (at Site 92-A50) and was undergoing pneumatic testing.
2014 Nov. 17: Final operations with the payload section including electric checks of the Astra-2G satellite and the Briz-M upper stage.
2014 Nov. 18: Preparations begin for the transfer of the payload section to the general assembly hall at Site 92-A50 for integration with the launch vehicle.
2014 Nov. 19: The assembly of the Proton-M rocket is completed.
2014 Nov. 24: A Proton-M launch vehicle with Astra-2G was rolled out to Pad No. 39 at Site 200 in Baikonur in preparation for launch scheduled on November 28, 2014, at 00:24:33 Moscow Time.
2014 Nov. 26: Roskosmos announces that launch pad tests had revealed a problem with the flight control avionics onboard the vehicle's Briz-M upper stage. As a result, the State Commission overseeing the launch made a decision to return the rocket back to the assembly building at Site 92A-50.
A Proton rocket with Astra-2G satellite is being installed on the launch pad on Nov. 24, 2014. The mission had to be postponed until later this month due to technical problems.
Read (and see) much more about the history of the Russian space program in a richly illustrated, large-format glossy edition:
Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: January 29, 2015
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Artist depiction of an Astra-2-series satellite. Credit: Airbus
Astra-2-series satellite during testing of its communications systems in echoless chamber. Credit: Airbus
Final assembly of the Proton rocket with Astra-2G satellite on Nov. 19, 2014. Click to enlarge. Credit: GKNPTs Khrunichev
Proton-M with Astra-2G shortly after its second rollout to the launch pad on Dec. 24, 2014. Credit: Roskosmos