Globalstar Launch on Soyuz To Proceed, Proton Launch of SES-4 Further Delayed

Globalstar Launch on Soyuz To Proceed, Proton Launch of SES-4 Further Delayed

Satellite operator Globalstar will proceed with its planned launch of six satellites tomorrow on a Russian Soyuz rocket despite a Soyuz failure on December 23 that destroyed a Russian military communications satellite.  Meanwhile, launch of a different commercial communications satellite, SES-4 (formerly NSS-14), on a Russian Proton rocket that should have occurred yesterday will be delayed by approximately 25 days because of technical problems with the Proton’s Briz (Breeze) upper stage.

The Proton launch was scrubbed shortly before launch.  Initially it was unclear as to whether the problem could be resolved quickly or if the launch vehicle would have to be rolled back from the pad.   The decision to roll back was made later in the day and International Launch Services, a U.S.-based company that sells commercial launches on Proton, subsequently announced that the launch would be delayed for about 25 days because of problems “with the avionics system” of the Briz-M upper stage.  Both Proton and Briz are manufactured by Khrunichev. 

Russia’s usually reliable launch vehicles have suffered a series of failures in the past 12 months, most recently the loss of a Soyuz-2.1b rocket on December 23 that doomed a Russian military communications satellite.  That failure, however, is not deterring satellite operator Globalstar from proceeding with its launch on a Soyuz scheduled for tomorrow, December 28.   The launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is intended to place six second-generation Globalstar satellites into orbit.   This launch was arranged through Starsem, a European-Russian joint venture that includes French launch company Arianespace.  Starsem conducts commercial Soyuz launches both from Baikonur and from Arianespace’s launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.  Arianespace and Globalstar issued press releases today indicating that the launch plans are unchanged. 

There are many versions of the Soyuz rocket and the Soyuz-2.1b that failed on December 23 is slightly different from version that will be used for Globalstar.   Arianespace stated that it would be the “same basic modernized version of  Soyuz” as is used in Kourou, but other sources report that the Kourou version, Soyuz-ST, is specially designed to operate in the humid climate in South America, whereas the version used at Baikonur is designated Soyuz 2-1a. has detailed technical information about the differences in these Soyuz variants.

The December 23 launch failure and the Proton problem yesterday led Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to put Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin “in charge of Russia’s space sector.”  Rogozin, Russia’s former ambassador to NATO, had just been assigned as Deputy Prime Minister and made responsible for ferreting out the problems in Russia’s defense and atomic energy sectors.  Yesterday’s action adds space to his portfolio.

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