Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Proton-M Blasts Off from Baikonur with Amazonas 5 Communications Satellite

Proton-M / Briz-M launch with Amazonas 5. Photo Credit: Roscosmos

International Launch Services (ILS) has successfully launched into space its Proton-M rocket carrying the Amazonas 5 communications satellite for Spanish operator Hispasat. The liftoff was conducted Sept. 11 at 19:23 GMT (3:23 p.m. EDT) from Site 200/39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The launch campaign for the mission started on Aug. 8 when the Amazonas 5 satellite arrived at Baikonur aboard an Antonov cargo jet. Ten days later the Proton-M launch vehicle was shipped to Baikonur by rail. 

Afterwards, the engineers conducted necessary checkouts and testing of the newly arrived parts by the end of August. Next, the satellite was attached to the Briz-M upper stage and encapsulated in the payload fairing. Meanwhile, the rocket was assembled and tested at the launcher integration facility, prior to its integration with the payload.

Once the integration was completed, the launch vehicle was rolled out to the launch pad on Sept. 8 and erected vertically for the upcoming liftoff. The countdown operation began some 11 and a half hours before the planned ignition of the rocket’s engines.

During countdown campaign, the rocket was started to be filled with propellants about six hours ahead of the launch. The launch pad’s service structure was removed approximately one hour before the liftoff, clearing the way for the automated countdown sequence that was commenced just five minutes prior to blastoff.

Soaring into the sky, Proton-M started its short vertical ascent powered by its six RD-275M engines. These boosters (the rocket’s first stage), finished their job about two minutes after liftoff when they were detached from the launch vehicle.

The rocket’s second stage continued the ascent for another three minutes and 27 seconds until it was also separated from the launch vehicle. Shortly after, the protective payload fairing was jettisoned, uncovering the mission’s sole passenger.

Few minutes later, at about nine minutes and 42 seconds into the flight, the separation of the third stage occurred and the Briz-M upper stage was released in order to start the last and the longest phase of the mission. This part of the flight lasted about nine hours during which Briz-M performed five engine burns and jettisoned its auxiliary propellant tank (APT).

The mission ended in the deployment of the Amazonas 5 satellite into a desired geostationary orbit at an altitude of 21,926 by 2,765 miles (35,286 by 4,450 kilometers), inclined 61 degrees West. 

Built by Space Systems Loral (SSL), Amazonas 5 is a communications satellites based on the SSL 1300 platform. The spacecraft weighs around 5.9 metric tons, features two deployable solar arrays, 24 Ku-band transponders and 34 Ka-band spot beams. Its operational lifetime is 15 years.

Hispasat will use Amazonas 5 for both video content delivery and internet connectivity, among other services, in Latin America. It will replace the Amazonas 4A satellite that suffered a power system malfunction after its deployment in 2014.

“With this new satellite, the Hispasat Group will be able to meet growing satellite capacity demand, mainly for satellite television platforms in Latin America and Brazil. Moreover, it has Ka band capacity to deal with new Internet connectivity services,” Hispasat wrote on its website.

The 190-foot (58-meter) tall Proton-M booster that was used for Monday’s launch measures some 13.5 feet (4.1 meters) in diameter along its second and third stages. Its first stage has a diameter of 24.3 feet (7.4 meters). The total overall height of the rocket’s three stages is about 138.8 feet (42.3 meters).

The first stage consists of a central tank containing the oxidizer surrounded by six outboard fuel tanks. Each fuel tank also carries one of the six RD‑275M engines that provide power for the first phase of flight. The cylindrical second stage is powered by three RD-0210 engines along with a single RD‑0211 engine.

A single RD-0213 engine and a four-nozzle vernier engine powers the third stage. Guidance, navigation, and control of the Proton-M during operation of the first three stages is carried out by a triple-redundant closed-loop digital avionics system mounted in the third stage.

Topping off the rocket is the Breeze-M upper stage. It is powered by a pump-fed gimbaled main engine. This stage consists of a central core and the APT that is jettisoned in flight after the depletion of its fuel. The stage’s control system includes an onboard computer, a three-axis gyro stabilized platform, and a navigation system.

Monday’s launch was the second ILS Proton mission in 2017 and the 95th Proton launch conducted by ILS overall. It was also the eight orbital mission that lifted off from Baikonur this year.

Next ILS mission is currently scheduled for Sept. 28, when a Proton-M booster will send the AsiaSat 9 communications satellite into orbit.

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