Proton-M Success Seals Space Super Sunday – UPDATE

Proton-M Success Seals Space Super Sunday – UPDATE

UPDATE, September 30 EDT:  The Briz-M successfully completed all five burns and delivered Astra 2E to the correct orbit.

ORIGINAL STORY, September 29 EDT:  Russia’s Proton-M rocket returned to flight this afternoon less than three months after a catastrophic failure.   It will be several hours until all five burns of the Proton-M’s Briz-M upper stage are done, signaling successful insertion of SES’s Astra 2E satellite into its proper orbit, but the three-stage Proton, at least, did its job.

On July 1 Eastern Daylight Time (July 2 local time at the launch site), a Proton-M crashed 17 seconds after liftoff at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan destroying three Russian government GLONASS navigation satellites.  An investigation discovered that three sensors were installed upside down, an error considered impossible.  Russian government and industry officials have been reprimanded or fired as a result.

A lot is riding on today’s launch, conducted for International Launch Services (ILS), which sells Proton on the commercial launch services market.  Proton-M lifted off on time at 5:38 pm Eastern Daylight Time (3:38 am September 30 local time in Kazakhstan).

It will be another 9 hours until all the Briz-M burns are completed and ILS can claim total success, but at the monent, the mission is proceeding as planned.

This is the third of three significant space events today.  First was the successful berthing of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station this morning.   That was followed by SpaceX’s successful first launch of a new version of the Falcon 9 rocket, the Falcon 9 v1.1, at noontime.  It also was the company’s first launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.  (All times EDT.)

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