Sunday, September 28, 2014

Russia Launches Proton-M with Military Satellite payload

Russia on Sunday successfully launched a Proton-M rocket carrying a satellite into orbit in the first such launch since one of the rockets fell back to Earth soon after liftoff in May.

The Proton-M rocket lifted off on schedule from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 12:23 am Moscow time (2023 GMT Saturday), carrying a Russian communications satellite, Russia's space agency said in a statement.

"At 09:26 Moscow time (0526 GMT), the satellite separated from the Briz-M upper-stage rocket and reached the set orbit," Roscosmos said.

Russia had suspended launches of Proton-M rockets after one carrying one of the country's most advanced communications satellites failed less than 10 minutes after liftoff on May 16 and burnt up in the upper layers of the atmosphere.

The Proton is the workhorse of Russia's space industry, earning tens of millions of dollars a year by launching Western and Asian satellites.

The upgraded M version of the Proton has experienced a string of problems that have threatened Russia's reputation as a reliable and cost-effective alternative to US and European rockets.

This image describes the trajectory of the Luch-M data relay network, a previous Proton launch mission.

Credit: RussianSpaceWeb

Sunday’s payload is a Russian Aerospace Defence Forces' geostationary satellite known as Olimp-K (Luch).

According to a Komersant report, the satellite will serve a dual role: One being electronic intelligence (SIGINT) and the other is providing secure communications for governmental use.

The Luch designation has historically been used for satellites with a data relay role. Therefore, the Olimp-K designation might relate to the ELINT payload while the Luch designation relates to the data relay payload.

The Proton-M was previously grounded in July 2013 when it crashed back to Earth with three Russian-made Glonass navigation satellites.

The Proton-M which lifted off Sunday is making use of a Briz-M fourth stage.

The Briz-M consists of a central propulsion unit with a detachable torus-shaped propellant tank mounted around it.

All four of the Proton’s stages burn unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) fuel, oxidised by dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4).

This propellant combination is hypergolic, meaning the propellants will spontaneously ignite on contact, however it is also highly toxic which has led to calls for the Proton to be withdrawn from use.

It is expected that the Angara rocket, which is currently undergoing testing, will eventually replace Proton.

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