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The Proton rocket started its first mission of 2012, with a liftoff from Pad 39 at Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on Feb. 14, 2012, at 23:36 Moscow Time. (It was already 36 minutes past midnight local time on February 15), carrying the SES-4 communications satellite.
During the mission, first three stages of the Proton rocket used a standard ascent profile to place the payload section (Briz-M upper stage and the SES-4 satellite) into a sub-orbital trajectory. The Briz-M then performed five engine firings: first to reach a circular parking orbit, a second an intermediate orbit, followed by a transfer orbit, and finally a geosynchronous transfer orbit. Separation of the SES-4 satellite occurred as scheduled, approximately nine hours, 12 minutes after liftoff. By that time, the satellite was in a 3,714 by 35,786-kilometer orbit with an inclination of 24.6 degrees toward the Equator.
The 6,180-kilogram SES-4 satellite (formerly NSS-14) built by Space Systems/Loral for SES New Skies, of Luxembourg. It was designed to provide broadband communications services over the Atlantic Ocean region at the orbital position 338 degrees East over the Equator during a 15-year life span. It was based on the Loral's standard SS/L 1300 platform.
SES-4 carried a so-called "hybrid" payload featuring high powered C-band coverage and incremental global capacity which was ideal for video distribution, government and VSAT services. The satellite’s Ku-band payload was to provide enhanced coverage and capacity across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Western Africa and Latin America. SES-4 was to bring a substantial increase in the total capacity available at its orbital position. The state-of-the-art spacecraft has been specifically designed for its orbital location, with C-band beams serving the eastern hemisphere of Europe and Africa, full America’s coverage as well as a global beam to support mobile and maritime customers. Four high powered regional Ku-band beams were to service Europe, the Middle East, West Africa, North America and South America with extensive cross-strapping between C- and Ku-band transponders providing enhanced connectivity.
Long road before the flight
Plans to launch the SES-4 satellite on Proton in late 2010 were first announced on March 18, 2009. In January 2010, the mission was expected in the first and second quarter of 2011. The launch was then delayed to mid- or late November 2011 and then to Dec. 27-28, 2011.
A day before the original launch attempt on Dec. 27, 2011, International Launch Services, ILS, announced that the mission had been postponed for approximately 25 days for technical reasons associated with the avionics system of the launch vehicle’s Briz-M upper stage. The additional time was needed due to the required destacking and replacement of the affected avionics unit. The delay was called after Khrunichev engineers at the launch site received an anomalous telemetry reading on the Briz-M upper stage during preflight testing. The vehicle and the satellite remained in a safe configuration at the launch site, ILS said.
The second attempt to launch SES-4 was rescheduled for January 28, 2012. The rocket with the spacecraft was rolled out to the launch pad on Jan. 25, 2012, however two days later Roskosmos announced that the technical problems required to postpone the launch to a later date. The return of the rocket from the launch pad to the processing facility was scheduled to take place on January 27, Roskosmos said. According to unofficial sources, the mission was delayed until the middle of February.
According to multiple industry sources, a malfunction was discovered on a transit cable in the first stage of the Proton rocket. This cable is reportedly supply power to an autonomous pump unit on the second stage of the vehicle and is absolutely necessary for integrated tests of the vehicle on the launch pad. The nature of the problem, reportedly required to partially disassembly the vehicle and check several power lines in order to pinpoint the culprit.
Problems with the SES-4 mission also reportedly stalled preparations for the next Proton mission, carrying Sirius FM-6 satellite. As of January 27, that payload's processing team had to pack up and go home.
After repairs, the rocket and its payload were returned to the launch pad at Site 200 on February 11, 2012, in preparation for launch on Feb. 14, 2012.
The first three stages of the Proton used a standard ascent profile to send the 6,199-kilogram payload section (Briz-M upper stage and the Intelsat 22 satellite) into a sub-orbital trajectory.
Briz-M then performed a total of five engine firings to advance the orbital unit first to a circular parking orbit, then to an intermediate orbit, followed by a transfer orbit, and finally to a 3,791 by 65,000-kilometer geostationary transfer orbit with an inclination 28.5 degrees toward the Equator.
Separation of the Intelsat 22 satellite occurred 15 hours, 30 minutes after liftoff at 07:40 Moscow Time on March 26 (11:40 p.m. EST on March 25). The spacecraft was expected to use its own engines to enter a geostationary orbit over the Equator at 72 degrees East longitude for 15-18 years of service.
The design of the 6,249-kilogram Intelsat 22 spacecraft would be the first based on Boeing's new 702MP platform.
As part of Intelsat’s 2012 fleet replacement and expansion plans, Intelsat 22 will carry two Ku-band mobility beams providing coverage of the Indian Ocean region, which will blanket busy maritime and aeronautical routes. From its position at 72 degrees East, Intelsat 22 will have Ku-band capacity serving the Middle East and eastern Africa. Its C-band coverage will provide connectivity to and from most of Europe, Africa, the Middle East and eastern Asia. It also carries an Ultra-High Frequency hosted payload that will be used by the Australian Defense Force. The spacecraft carries a total of 48 transponders working in C-band, 24 - Ku-band and 18 in UHF.
On March 15, 2010, International Launch Services, ILS, announced an agreement to launch the Intelsat 21 spacecraft on the Proton rocket with a projected launch date in early 2012.
Weighing 6,300 kg, Intelsat-21 was based on the Boeing's standard 702B spacecraft platform. Proton would carry it into a 65,000-kilometer super-synchronous transfer orbit. Intelsat 21 was to replace the Intelsat 9 satellite located at 302 degrees East providing C- and Ku-band capacity for broadband, video and voice applications with coverage over the Americas and Europe.
On May 5, 2010, ILS announced that Intelsat 22 would replace the Intelsat 21 spacecraft during this mission, as it was allowed by a multi-launch agreement with the customer.
By the end of 2011, the mission was expected during a second week of March 2012. By mid-February 2012, the launch shifted to March 20 and then to March 25.
The Proton-K rocket with Block-DM 2 upper stage lifted off Friday at 09:49 Moscow Time (1:49 a.m. EST) carrying an Oko (eye) early-warning satellite for the Russian military. The payload was scheduled to separate from its upper stage at 16:27 Moscow Time on the same day.
The mission also employed the last Proton-K rocket marking a full transition of the Russian workhorse launcher to Proton-M version.
A Russian rocket successfully delivered one of two communications satellites for Al Yah Satellite Communications Co. (Yahsat) of the United Arab Emirates.
After an nine-hour, 12-minute mission, which included five engine burns of the Briz-M upper stage, the six-ton satellite was successfully released into geostationary transfer orbit.
The agreement for the launch between International Launch Services (ILS), Thales Alenia Space of France and Yahsat was announced on Jan. 30, 2008. Previously, Arianespace had announced a contract to launch one of Yahsat satellites on the Ariane-5 rocket from Kourou. In August 2007, Thales Alenia Space and Astrium won a $1.7-billion contract to build two large Yahsat multipurpose satellites based on the Astrium Eurostar 3000 bus. Yahsat, which is owned by Mubadala Development Company, will provide commercial and government services across the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Southwest Asia.
YahSat satellites were to provide innovative solutions for internet connectivity via satellite, wide area networks and television transmission services, in particular for high-definition television (HDTV). The launch was originally expected in 2010-2011, however, by the end of 2011, the mission was set to go ahead during the second week of April 2012. At the same time, the mission could move up in the Proton launch manifest, if the launch of Oko-2 early-warning satellite would continue to be postponed. Following the launch of Oko on March 30, the YahSat mission was scheduled for April 24.
A Proton-M rocket launched the Nimiq-6 communications satellite for Telesat of Canada. The launch vehicle lifted off on May 17, 2012, at 23:12 Moscow Time (19:12 GMT) from Pad 24 at Site 81 in Baikonur.
During the launch, the first three stages of the Proton used a standard ascent profile to send the payload section consisting of the Briz-M upper stage and the Nimiq-6 satellite into a sub-orbital trajectory. The Briz-M then performed five engine firings to advance the orbital unit first to a circular parking orbit, then to an intermediate orbit, followed by a transfer orbit, and finally to a geostationary transfer orbit (an altitude - 12,073 by 35,786 kilometers; an inclination - 10.2 degrees toward the Equator).
The separation of the payload from the upper stage took place as scheduled at 08:26 Moscow Time on May 18, 2012, or nine hours 14 minutes after the liftoff.
The 4.5-ton Nimiq-6 satellite built by Space Systems/Loral was based on the company's standard and flight-proven 1300 platform. As its payload, the spacecraft was carrying 32 high-power Ku-band transponders. The spacecraft was to be stationed at 91 degrees West Longitude over the Equator where it was expected to function for 15 years.
Telesat’s Nimiq fleet is comprised of direct broadcast satellites utilized by Telesat’s customers to provide Direct-to-Home (DTH) television services to consumers in North America. Nimiq-6 was fully leased to Bell TV for the satellite’s lifetime to serve the fast-growing number of Bell TV subscribers across Canada.
The contract for the launch of Nimiq-6 was announced on March 17, 2010, with the mission promised to lift off in the middle of 2012.
A Proton-M rocket with a Briz-M upper stage launched the SES-5 (Astra 4B) communications satellite from Pad 24 at Site 81 in Baikonur. The launch vehicle lifted off as scheduled at 22:38:30 Moscow Summer Time on Monday, July 9, 2012.
The original launch date in the fourth quarter of 2011 was announced on March 18, 2009, and until April 2010, the satellite was called Sirius 5. In the Spring of 2012, the launch was expected on June 21, but was advanced to June 18-19.
On June 19, International Launch Services, ILS, announced a postponement of the launch until June 21, at 12:24 local time due to technical problems with the launch vehicle. According to the company, which markets Proton rockets, the delay was called after Khrunichev engineers at the launch site received an out-of-tolerance telemetry reading on a first stage subsystem during pre-flight testing. The replacement unit has been installed and fully tested and all test results had been nominal. The vehicle and satellite remained in a safe configuration at the launch site, ILS said. However on June 19, Roskosmos announced that the launch vehicle had to be removed from the pad at Site 81. A day later industry sources said that the fifth hydraulic drive (in one of six engines of the first stage), whose failure was detected on the morning of June 18, had had to be replaced, threatening to push the mission as far as August, after the next planned launch of Telkom-3 and Ekspress-MD2. At the same time, the official Russian media reported that no new launch date had been set and a rumored launch attempt on July 5 had been out of the question. In the meantime, after a pair of hastily replaced avionics boxes controlling hydraulic drive had not completely fixed the off-nominal performance of the device, on July 20 technicians removed the rocket from the pad in order to replace the entire mechanism, which was expected to delay the mission by 5-7 days.
All necessary replacements were completed by June 29, with the rollout to the pad now planned for July 4 and the launch for July 7 at 22:23 Moscow Time, however during the repairs of the first stage technicians accidentally dropped a screw, which was to hold in place a technical hatch of the stage, into the empty oxidizer tank of the rocket. Efforts to find and remove the small object required another postponement of the launch until July 9. On July 6, the ILS announced that the launch had now been scheduled for July 9, 2012, at 22:38:30 Moscow Time. On morning of the same day, a fully assembled vehicle had been moved to the Briz fueling station to load hazardous propellant onboard the upper stage, GKNPTs Khrunichev announced. The next day, the rocket finally returned to Pad No. 24 at Site 81.
A 6,007-kilogram SES-5 satellite was based on the SS/L 1300 platform developed by Space Systems /Loral of Palo Alto, California. It carried 24 C-band transponders and 36 Ku-band transponders. The spacecraft had a projected lifespan of 15 years.
According to ILS, SES-5’s high-powered Ku-band beams were to bring incremental capacity over Africa, and the Nordic and Baltic countries to support DTH services. Its comprehensive C-band beams cover Africa, the Middle East and Europe were to enable services such as GSM backhaul, VSAT applications, maritime communications and video distribution. SES-5 was also to carry the first hosted L-band payload for the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS). The EGNOS payload, which was developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission (EC), was to help verify, improve, and report on the reliability and accuracy of navigation positioning signals in Europe.
During the launch, first three stages of the Proton used a standard ascent profile to place the orbital unit (Briz-M upper stage and the SES-5 satellite) into a sub-orbital trajectory. From this point in the mission, the Briz-M performed planned mission maneuvers to advance the orbital unit first to a circular parking orbit, then to an intermediate orbit, followed by a transfer orbit, and finally to a geostationary transfer orbit. Separation of the SES-5 satellite occurred approximately nine hours, 12 minutes after liftoff in a 4,170 by 35,786-kilometer orbit with an inclination 23.1 degrees toward the Equator. According to Roskosmos separation took place on July 10, 2012, at 07:50 Moscow Time. Right after that, specialists of the Russian Air and Space Defense Forces, VKO, provided the maneuvering of the Briz-M stage away from the satellite.
SES-5 was expected to use its own propulsion system to reach a final operational orbit at 5 degrees East longitude over the Equator.
A pair of communications satellites was left in a wrong orbit after a botched launch of the Proton-M/Briz-M rocket.
Two months after its failed launch, the Proton rocket returned to flight delivering a communications satellite, successfully completing its eighth mission in 2012.
A Proton-M launch vehicle with a Briz-M upper stage lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 12:36:59 Moscow Time carrying the Intelsat 23 communications satellite. The payload section including the Briz-M and Intelsat 23 separated from the third stage of the rocket at 12:46 Moscow Time. After several engine burns, the satellite separated from the upper stage at 22:07 Moscow Time on the same day.
The Intelsat 23 satellite, weighing 2,730 kilograms was built on the flight-proven Orbital Star 2.4E platform with an ILS Proton providing a direct injection into geostationary orbit. Intelsat 23 will provide communications services for the Americas, Europe and Africa with C- and Ku-band coverage at 307 degrees East.
As of February 2010, the launch was planned for the end of 2011. By the end of April 2012, the mission was expected on July 28 of that year or in the middle of July. Before the end of May the launch was advanced to July 24. By June, the mission was rescheduled for Aug. 13 and in July, it slipped to Aug. 23. A Proton launch failure in August further delayed the mission. As of beginning of September, the launch was expected in the middle of October.
A Russian workhorse space vehicle launched a pair of the nation's communications satellites during its ninth mission of 2012.
A Proton-M/Briz-M rocket carrying Luch-5B as a primary payload and the Yamal-300K satellite as a secondary payload lifted off from Baikonur at 01:04 Moscow Summer Time. According to GKNPTs Khrunichev, the manufacturer of the Proton rocket, the payload section including the Briz-M upper stage and two satellites separated from the third stage of the rocket and continued an autonomous flight featuring four firings of the upper stage's main engine.
The separation of Yamal-300K took place at 10:18:00 Moscow Time and the separation of Luch-5B took place at 10:33:00 Moscow Time, both as planned, GKNPTs Khrunichev said.
The Yamal-300K satellite and its ground control segment located in the town of Shelkovo in the eastern suburbs of Moscow was built by ISS Reshetnev for a division of the Russian gas giant OAO Gazprom kosmicheskie sistemy. It would join other satellites in the Yamal series, with a letter "K" in the name denoting city of Krasnoyarsk -- the region where ISS Reshetnev is located. The spacecraft would carry two sets of communications payloads with 26 C- an Ku-band transponders providing services across Russia and former Soviet republics from an orbital position of 90 degrees East longitude over the Equator. The design of Yamal-300K was based on the Ekspress-1000NTA platform. It was equipped with a pair of solar panels with a total area of 42.17 square meters.
Luch-5 satellites were originally expected to fly onboard Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat, however by mid-2009 Luch-5A was paired with the Amos communications satellite, which ISS Reshetnev was building for an Israeli customer, and both were moved on Proton. In 2010, Luch-5B was paired with Yamal-300K, enabling another move to Proton. However Luch-5B was expected to be in lower position during the launch, requiring stronger structure, and would carry two transponders less than its predecessor. (557)
As of summer of 2012, the dual launch was expected at the end of September - beginning of October, but it had to be postponed from Sept. 8 by the Proton rocket failure in August. By the beginning of October, the mission was scheduled for November 3.
Less than three weeks after its previous mission, Russia's workhorse rocket lifted off from Kazakhstan on its latest commercial mission.
A Proton-M rocket with a Briz-M upper stage launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Pad No. 39 at Site 200 on Nov. 20, 2012, at 22:31 Moscow Time. The vehicle carried the 6,683-kilogram EchoStar 16 communications satellite for EchoStar company based in Englewood, Colorado, USA.
Typically for communications satellite deliveries, the Proton M launch vehicle would use a flight profile involving five engine firings of the Briz M. The first three stages of the Proton will use a standard ascent profile to place the payload section comprised of the upper stage and its payload into a sub-orbital trajectory. From this point in the mission, the Briz M was to perform planned mission maneuvers to advance the orbital unit first to a circular parking orbit, then to an intermediate orbit, followed by a transfer orbit, and finally to a geostationary transfer orbit. Separation of the EchoStar-16 satellite was scheduled to occur approximately nine hours, 12 minutes after liftoff into a 2,434 by 35,786-kilometer orbit with an inclination 29 degrees toward the Equator. The satellite would later use its propulsion system to enter its final operational orbit.
EchoStar-16 was to join a fleet of spacecraft that power global communication, commerce and entertainment. Operated by EchoStar, this particular satellite would be fully leased to the Dish network for use in its Direct-to-Home (DTH) services in the United States. An all Ku-band satellite with CONUS and spot beam transponders, EchoStar-16 was to utilize SS/L’s flight-proven 1300 spacecraft bus. Station at 61.5° West longitude, the satellite was expected to function for 15 years.
In April 2012, the mission was expected on June 21, however by May it slipped to September 2012. The launch was later delayed from September 25. The spacecraft was delivered to Baikonur on October 16.
Russia's workhorse rocket failed to deliver the nation's communications satellite, furthering checkering its record.
Summary of Proton missions in 2012 (as of December 5, 2014 ):
Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: December 5, 2014
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The rollout of a Proton rocket with NSS-14 (SES-4) communications satellite to the launch pad in Baikonur. Credit: Telesat
Proton lifts off on Feb. 14, 2012, at 23:36 Moscow Time. Credit: ILS
Proton with Intelsat 22 rolls out to the launch pad on March 23. Notable is unpainted body of the rocket, probably intended to save mass for the heavy payload. Credit: Roskosmos
Intelsat 22 with Briz-M upper stage during pre-launch processing in Baikonur. Credit: Khrunichev
Proton with Intelsat 22 lifts off on March 25, 2012. Credit: GKNPTs Khrunichev
Last Proton-K with last Oko satellite lifts off on March 30. Credit: Roskosmos
A Proton-M rocket lifts off on May 17, 2012, carrying Nimiq-6 satellite. Credit: Roskosmos
The Proton rocket with SES-5 satellite is being erected on the launch pad for the second time on July 7, 2012. Credit: Roskosmos
A Proton rocket with SES-5 satellite lifts off on July 9, 2012. Credit: Roskosmos
The Telkom-3 satellite is being installed on top of the Briz-M/Ekspress-MD2 stack in Baikonur in July. Credit: ISS Reshetnev
A scale model of the Ekspress-MD satellite. Copyright © 2008 Anatoly Zak
A Proton rocket launches the Yamal-402 communications satellite on Dec. 8, 2012. Credit: GKNPTs Khrunichev