ILS Relatively Upbeat Despite Proton Failure

ILS Relatively Upbeat Despite Proton Failure

International Launch Services (ILS), which markets the Proton-M rocket for commercial space launches, issued a relatively upbeat statement today following the dramatic Proton launch failure last night Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

In a remarkable understatement considering the spectacular disintegration and explosion, ILS said that the Proton “veered off its flight path and returned to Earth.”  It added that no one appeared to be hurt, there was no damage to the launch pad and only minor damage to buildings.

ILS has set up its own Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB) in addition to the special commission established by Russia’s space agency, Roskosmos, to determine what went wrong and why.  The ILS FROB will review the commission’s findings and corrective action plan, and include representatives from customers, insurance underwriters, and technical experts from industry.

This particular launch was for the Russian government, not a commercial entity, but commercial customers undoubtedly are concerned about the rocket’s reliability.  The next Proton launch was scheduled for July 20 for SES’s Astra 2-T satellite.  

An unidentified industry source quoted by Russia’s RIA Novosti estimated the cost of yesterday’s failure at “no less than 6 billion rubles ($200 million).”  It adds that the rocket was insured for that amount by the Russian Insurance Center.

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