Site 92 in Baikonur Cosmodrome
Spacecraft processing building 92A-50 is one of the newest facilities in Baikonur. A huge storage site for Proton rockets can be seen on the background on the right.
Before its arrival to the launch pad, the Proton rocket is assembled and tested in horizontal position at a dedicated facility located at Site 92. Building No. 92-1 is around 120 meters long and 50 meters wide. Segments of the rocket arrive into the building by rail from the Khrunichev production plant in Moscow. Up to four launchers can be processed in the building simultaneously. A pair of extensions to the building were added to handle pyrotechnic devices and various support systems.
The main processing hall for Proton was designed to have one work place for the assembly of the rocket and another for integrated tests of a fully assembled vehicle. A special revolver-like device was developed for the assembly of the Proton's first stage with its central core and six strap-on tanks.
Proton's unmanned passengers such as satellites or space station modules collectively known by Russian abbreviation KGCh, which stands for (Space Head Section), loaded with propellant first and packed under their fairings. Most unmanned satellites are also attached to an upper (fourth) stage, such as Block-D or Briz-M. In the next step, they are delivered to Building No. 92-1 by rail for integration and testing with the first three stages of the rocket.
This is the last step in Proton integration, after which the entire stack is loaded by cranes on the flat rail transporter for its rollout to the launch pad.
Yet, another facility for a storage of as many as 20 Proton rockets was built at Site 92, however, apparently it was never used to full capacity, as the Soviet space program declined at the end of the 1980s. A four-section building No. 75 A/B/V/G could house 16 fully assembled rockets and Facility No. 75Kh could hold four rockets and a pair of spacecraft. The facility also included buildings 92-75KhA and 92-75KhG.
From 1998 and until December 1999, Group 9 existed to maintain all three buildings and their equipment, however later it was merged with Group 8 personnel.
The majority of payloads destined to ride Proton rockets into orbit are processed in Building No. 92A-50 in Area 92. This is the one of the most sophisticated facilities in Baikonur founded at the beginning of the 1970's and completed in 1981. (70)
The overall testing as well as fueling and the pneumatic pressurization of the spacecraft can be conducted at dedicated work places inside the building. Also, the satellites can be integrated with their upper stages and covered with their payload fairings.
In January 1995, a major fire caused by welding destroyed a checkout room and three processing sites for Russian satellites. At least one spacecraft, built at NPO PM in Zheleznogorsk, which was undergoing pre-launch processing at the time, was also damaged beyond repair. As a result, NPO PM, later ISS Reshetnev shifted majority of the spacecraft processing and testing back to the company and minimized operations at the launch site. In turn, the change required to drop the spacecraft delivery by rail and switch to air shipment. (908)
By 2011, the facility 92A-50 was refurbished enabling parallel processing of two large satellites.
A large storage facility No. 75 for as many as 16 Proton rockets in Baikonur.
The Zvezda service module is being integrated with the Proton launch vehicle. Credit: Fedor Yurchikhin
Proton with Zvezda leaves the vehicle assembly building No. 92-1 on July 8, 2000, on its way to the launch pad. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak