ILS Still Waiting for Proton Anomaly Report, But Khrunichev Has It

ILS Still Waiting for Proton Anomaly Report, But Khrunichev Has It

Although the most probable root cause of an anomaly that left Gazprom’s Yamal 402 satellite in the wrong orbit last month apparently has been identified, the company that arranged for the launch is still awaiting the results.  International Launch Services (ILS) says that It will not clear the rocket for commercial launches until it has its own chance to review the report.

ILS announced on January 11 that Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, approved the results of the investigation into why a Proton rocket and its Briz-M (Breeze-M) upper stage left the Thales Alenia Space-built communications satellite in the wrong orbit.  The investigation was conducted by an independent working group and Roscosmos recently approved the group’s report and provided the results to Khrunichev State Research and Space Production Center. 

Khrunichev manufactures Proton and Briz.   ILS is a U.S. company, based in Reston, VA, that is a subsidiary of Khrunichev, and has exclusive rights to market the Proton rocket globally.

ILS said, however, that it will not see the report until it clears “Russian security,” a step expected during the week of January 21.  Then ILS’s own Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB) will review the report prior to the Proton-Briz being cleared to resume commercial launches.

The December 8, 2012 anomaly was the latest in a string of Russian launch failures over the past two years.   The Briz-M upper stage cut off about four minutes early and stranded the satellite in the wrong orbit.    It was ultimately nudged into the correct orbit using the satellite’s on-board propulsion, but that means the satellite will have less propellant to maintain its orbital position, reducing its useful lifetime from 15 to 11 years.  The satellite is owned by Russia’s Gazprom Space Systems.

Russian press sources reported at the end of December that the root cause of the failure was determined, but ILS issued a statement stressing that it needed a chance to review the investigation report itself.


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