August 10, 2012 (TSR) – The Russian government Proton-M rocket vehicle that launched the Telkom 3 and Express MD-2 telecommunication satellites from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1931 GMT on Monday, 6 August failed to enter their designed orbits.

Monday’s launch – delayed several times from May, ironically due to problems with the Upper Stage – was scheduled to utilize four burns of the Briz-M (model 99531) to loft its two passengers to their GTO destination.

However, Russian Space Agency Roscosmos released a statement, around the time spacecraft separation confirmation was due, noting both satellites did not make it to the transfer orbit and were lost due to a failure of the Briz-M upper stage. It is not yet known if the satellites can be salvaged or will be left to eventually re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.

A Russian media report, via RIA Novosti, then confirmed both satellites are considered lost, adding to the Briz-M’s failure history that includes the loss of the Ekspress-AM4 satellite last year, although it did enjoy 12 nominal missions since that lost.

During the launch, the Breeze- M upper stage was to conduct three engine firings to place the satellites into a geostationary transfer orbit. At the third firing of the upper stage, the engines shut down after 7 seconds instead of the intended burn of 18 minutes and 5 seconds. This has left the satellites still attached to the upper stage in a useless 250 kilometre by 5000 kilometre orbit.


Proton M SES 5 Coverage

Experts of the Russian Air and Space Defense Troops who are monitoring the orbits and the spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry Col. Alexei Zolotukhin told Interfax-AVN that “currently these satellites are not a threat to the International Space Station and space vehicles of the Russian orbital group”.

“Information on changes in the orbits of the space vehicles regularly obtained from special means of the Russian space control system allow experts of the Russian Air and Space Defense Troops to daily calculate and adjust forecast of probable approach of dangerous objects to the ISS,” he added.

According to unofficial reports this week, Russian space control found four objects in an undersigned orbit. Supposedly, these are Express-MD2 and Telecom-3 satellites, the Briz-M upper stage and an ‘unidentified’ junction element. It is expected that the space vehicles detached from the upper stage after its engines stopped.

When the two communications satellites lifted off from Baikonur, the carrier rocket operated normally. Subsequent delivery of the satellites was to be conducted with four engine firings of the upper stage. The third firing lasted less than it should have, and the fourth one did not happen.

Launcher: Proton-M with Breeze-M upper stage


The original plan was to launch Telkom-3 with the Yamal-300K satellite, using the 74·5 degree azimuth to a 48 degree initial orbit. In turn, Ekspress-MD2 was to be launched with Ekspress-AM8. However, the failure of the JCSAT-11 mission, led to the closure of the 48 degree orbit.

The Khrunichev Space Center is the producer of the Proton-M rockets and Briz-M upper stages. The satellite Express-MD2, created by the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center together with the Italian division of Thales Alenia Space, is designed for continuous round the clock relay information flows in different directions in the system of satellite communication and broadcasting in Russia.

Spacecraft Telkom-3 is created by Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems. The device is designed to provide communication services and television broadcasting in the territory of Indonesia and Indochina’s satellite business service, particularly for the Telkom Group who have invested $200m into the project.

“Telkom-3 Satellite is designated not only for commercial purpose and for satellite capacity improvement in enhancing ICT infrastructure quality but also for the government needs such as defense and security (military) and for the support of operations of state-owned firms as well,” said Rinaldi Firmansyah, President of Telkom.


Launcher: Proton-M with Briz-M upper stage


The Telkom-3 Satellite had a capacity of 42 active transponders, consisting of 24 transponders at 36MHz Standard C-band, 8 transponders at 54 MHz C-band and 4 transponders at 36 MHz, along with 6 transponders at 54 MHz Ku-Band.

This was the first time Indonesia has purchased a satellite from Russia, adding to their fleet that includes the Telkom-2 satellite, that was launch by an Ariane 5 in 2005.

The Express MD2 was a small communication satellite, designed and fabricated by the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center under a contract with Russian Satellite Communications Company(RSCC) and Thales Alenia Space of Italy.

Proton M System Flight Path


The contact was within the framework of the Program of Renovation of Russian State Civilian Satellite Orbital Constellation and the Federal Space Program of Russia for 2006-2015.

The satellite was designed to relay, round-the-clock, data streams to multiple users within the Russian Satellite Communications and Broadcasting System and sports 8 C-band-transponders and 1 L-band transponder.

The 1,140 kg satellite was expected to have a service life of 10 years.


Proton M Trajectory


The Proton booster that launched the satellites was 4.1 m (13.5 ft) in diameter along its second and third stages, with a first stage diameter of 7.4 m (24.3 ft). Overall height of the three stages of the Proton booster is 42.3 m (138.8 ft).

The Proton vehicle has a heritage of nearly 400 launches since 1965 and is built by Khrunichev Research and State Production Center. While this mission was conducted by the Russian government, the Proton is also used by International Launch Services (ILS).


SES’ high-powered Ku-band beams was to bring incremental capacity over Africa, and the Nordic and Baltic countries to support DTH services. Its comprehensive C-band beams cover Africa, the Middle East and Europe to enable services such as GSM backhaul, VSAT applications, maritime communications and video distribution. SES-5 carries the first hosted L-band payload for the European Commission’s European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS).


The Proton Rocket Family

The Proton Rocket Family is one of the most successful heavy-lift boosters in the history of space flight. Being designated UR-500, the Rocket started out as a Super Intercontinental Ballistic Missile in the 1960’s. As it was capable of launching a 100-megaton nuclear warhead, Proton was hugely over-sized and became a Space Launcher designed to lift the heaviest payloads to space. The first Proton Launch was made in 1965. during the first five years of operation, the system experienced dozens of failures before becoming a reliable booster. Over the years, the Proton Family underwent several modifications and re-designs in order to keep the Rocket’s System up to date using modern technology.


Proton-M Launch Vehicle Major Characteristics


The early version of the Proton Family was called 8K82 and was equipped with only two stages. Proton-K was the first featuring three stages and an optional upper stage. The Proton-K Launcher was retired in 2012, leaving only the improved version of the Family, Proton-M, active. This particular launcher configuration made its first launch in 2001. Proton-M is also a three-stage rocket with the capability to support a upper stage. Block D/DM and Briz-M (English: Breeze-M) Upper Stages are used on top of the Proton to enable the heavy-lift vehicle to deliver its payload to a variety of orbits and trajectories. The Proton Rocket is launches from Sites 81 and 200 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center is the manufacturer of the Proton-M Rocket and Briz-M Upper Stage. Proton-M Launchers are operated by the Russian Government for official government mission. Also, the Rocket has been made available for commercial launches which are being operated by International Launch Services. Th Proton Family has more than 330 Launches under its belt keeping a success rate of nearly 90%. Notable payloads included modules of the Russian Salyut and Mir Space Stations as well as the Zarya and Zvezda Modules of the International Space Station. Many commercial communication satellites have been orbited using Proton-M Rockets with Breeze-M Upper Stages.


Proton-M Powered Flight Chart Breeze-M Powered Flight


Proton M/Breeze M Specifications

The Proton-M Vehicle consists of three Stages each equipped with different engines that place the orbital Unit Consisting of Upper Stage and Payload to its desired trajectory in about 9 minutes. Compared to previous Proton versions, Proton-M utilized light-weight technology as part of an effort to reduce launcher mass to maximize its capability. Also, the avionics of the Proton-M are digital, state of the art systems. Proton-M uses a simple design philosophy to increase reliability and improve flight heritage on proven components. 

Photo: Khrunichev
Type Proton-M
Height 53m
Diameter 7.4m
Launch Mass 712,800kg
Stages 3 (+ Optional Upper Stage)
Boosters None
Mass to LEO 22,000kg
Mass to GTO – Briz-M 6,000kg
Mass to GSO – Briz-M 3,500kg

First Stage

The first and largest stage of the Proton-M Rocket has an inert mass of 31,000 Kilograms. It consists of the central tank containing the Oxidizer, Nitrogen Tetroxide. This large central tank is surrounded by six outboard propellant tanks containing Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine which is used as fuel. The outboard tanks give the impression of strap-on rocket boosters, but are not separated during flight. Each of the fuel tanks has a modified RD-253 Engine installed on it. In total, these six engines provide a massive thrust of 11 Meganewtons at sea level. Since 1965, the first stage engines have only been modified slightly, increasing performance to 112% of initial performance. TheRD-253 uses a staged combustioncycle for oxidizer-rich generator gas. The first stage is separated from the launch vehicle after 120 second into the mission. Modifications allowed reduced propellant residuals in the Proton’s stages in order to improve launcher performance and avoid environmental hazards as the Propellants are highly toxic. First stage control is accomplished by gimbaling the engines. Guidance data is provided by the Navigation System that is installed on the third stage.


Photo: Khrunichev
Type Storable Propellant Stage
Inert Mass 31,000kg
Diameter 7.4m
Length 21m
Propellant Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine
Oxidizer Dinitrogentetroxide
Fuel&Oxidizer Mass 419,400kg
Guidance From third Stage
Total Thrust 10,532kN
Propulsion 6 RD-253-14D14 Engines
Thrust at Sea Level 1,750kN
Thrust (Vacuum) 1,830kN
Egnine Length 3.00m
Engine Diameter 1.50m
Engine Dry Weight 1,260kg
Burn Time 108sec
Sea Level Impulse 285s
Vacuum Impulse 316s
Chamber Pressure 2,450psia


Second Stage

Unlike the first stage, the second stage of the Proton-M uses the conventional cylindrical stage design with Fuel and Oxidizer Tanks mounted in a stacked manner. The second stage also uses Nitrogen Tetroxide and Hydrazine as propellants. With an empty weight of 11,700 Kilograms, the stage holds up to 156,100 Kilograms of propellants that are used during 206 seconds of powered flight before the stage separated from the third stage of the vehicle. Stage is powered by four engines, three RD-0210 engines and one RD-0211 engine which is a slightly modified RD-0210 engine that accommodates a gas generator heat exchanger that supplies pressurant gas to the propellant tanks to keep them at proper flight pressure levels. In total, all engines provide approximately 2.4 Meganewtons of thrust. The RD-0210 engine is also a staged combustion cycle engine.


Photo: Khrunichev
Type Storable Propellant Stage
Diameter 4.15m
Length 14m
Inert Mass 11,715kg
Propellant Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine
Oxidizer Dinitrogentetroxide
Fuel&Oxidizer Mass 156,113kg
Guidance From third Stage
Total Thrust 2,399kN
Propulsion 4 RD-0210 Engines
Thrust 599kN
Engine Length 2.33m
Engine Diameter 1.47m
Engine Dry Weight 566kg
Burn Time 206sec
Vacuum Impulse 327s
Chamber Pressure 147psia


Third Stage

The third stage of the Proton-M Rocket is the final stage of the actual launch vehicle that delivers the orbital unit to a preliminary orbit or a suborbital trajectory, depending on the mission profile. This stage also utilizes a conventional design and consumes Nitrogen Tetroxide and Hydrazine a propellants. A RD-0213 engine powers the vehicle providing 583 Kilonewtons of thrust. This engine is a non-gimbaled version of the RD-0210 engine that i used on the second stage. For vehicle control and additional thrust, a RD-0214 Engine with four gimbaled nozzles is installed on the third stage. The RD-0214 provides 31 Kilonewtons of thrust. 

The third stage houses the vehicle’s Navigation, Guidance and Control System that operated the vehicle during all aspects of powered flight which is fully automated and does not require commands from ground stations. a triple redundant digital guidance system is used to control the vehicle. The Control System has been upgraded several times since the Proton-M started operations in 2001. The guidance mode used is cosed-loop. A high-precision three-axis gyro stabilizer provides exact attitude data to the digital flight computer. The avionics system also provides flight termination in case of a major anomaly during ascent.

Photo: Khrunichev


Type Storable Propellant Stage
Inert Mass 4,185kg
Diameter 4.14m
Length 6.5m
Propellant Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine
Oxidizer Dinitrogentetroxide
Fuel&Oxidizer Mass 46,562kg
Guidance Inertial
Total Thrust 613.8kN
Propulsion RD-0212 Engine + RD-0214 Vernier
Thrust (Vacuum) 583kN
Burn Time 238sec
Vacuum Impulse 325s

Payload Fairing

Diameter 4.35m
Length 13.31m/15.26m
Mass ~2,000kg
Separation During 3rd Stage Burn


Breeze- M Upper Stage

The Briz-M delivers payloads to a variety of orbits including low, medium and high Earth Orbits as well as supersynchronous trajectories and Earth Escape Flight Paths. The Briz Upper Stage is built to be as small as possible to leave enough room for large payloads under the Proton Fairing. Briz-M provides a precise injection capability and can support ascent missions of up to 24 hours, however nominal missions do not exceed 10 hours. The nominal duration for supersynchronous missions is 15 hours. The limiting factor for mission duration is battery power on the upper stage. The Briz-M uses Nitrogen Tetroxide as Oxidizer andUnsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine as Fuel. The Propellants are stored in two tanks that are part of the core module of the Briz-M Vehicle and are separated by a bulkhead. This module also includes the propulsion sections and the avionics as Briz-M has its own control system. 5,200 Kilograms of Propellants are stored in the Core Module. A toroidal Auxiliary Propellant Tank surrounds the core section and has a capacity of 14,600 Kilograms. APT also contains hydraulic and pneumatic systems that are used to supply the spacecraft. After the APT is depleted, it is jettisoned by firing pyrotechnic locks, separating umbilical connections and initiating pushers. In total, 19,800 kilograms of Propellants are stored in Briz-M Tanks. The Upper stage is powered by a single S5.98M Main Engine that provides 19.62kN of thrust and is housed in the interior niche of the two propellant tanks of the Core. The engine is a pump-fed engine that provides gimbaling capability. The Main Engine can be started up to 8 Times and has a fully redundant ignition system. Four low-thrust engine units are used for propellant settling and attitude control. Each Attitude Control Unit is comprised of one 11D458M Settling Thruster providing 392N of Thrust and three 17D58E attitude Control Jets with 13.3N Thrust. High pressure Helium stored in tanks is used to keep Propellant Tanks at Flight Pressure and control the pneumatics of the Upper Stage. All aspects of the Briz-M Mission are controlled y the vehicle’s avionics and pre-flight commands/programs. Briz-M has a passive and active thermal control system to keep all of its systems in operating condition during longer flights. After spacecraft separation, the Upper Stage performs Collision avoidance maneuvers or performs a deorbit maneuver, depending on the flight trajectory.

Photo: Khrunichev
Type Upper Stage
Diameter 4.10m
Length 2.61m
Inert Mass 2,370kg
Propellant Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine
Oxidizer Dinitrogentetroxide
Fuel&Oxidizer Mass 19,800kg
Guidance Inertial
Propulsion 1 S5.98M Engine
Thrust 19.6kN
Re-Starts Up to 8
Engine Dry Weight 95kg
Burn Time Up to 3,200sec
Vacuum Impule 326s
Vernier Thrusters 4 11D458M Engines
Thrust 392N
Attitude Control 12 Attitude Control Jets
Thrust 13.3N
Propellant Hydrazine

Proton Engines

RD-253-14D14 (Photo: Khrunichev)

Payload Adapters


Diameter 0.937m
Length 1.168m
Mass 120kg
Separation Clamp-Band/Annular
Band Tension 30kN


Diameter 1.194m
Length 1.00m
Mass 110kg
Separation Clamp-Band/Annular
Band Tension 35-40kN


Diameter 1.194m
Length 1.00m
Mass 110kg
Separation Clamp-Band/Annular
Band Tension 54kN


Diameter 1.666m
Length 1.00m
Mass 155kg
Separation Clamp-Band/Annular
Band Tension 30kN


Diameter 1.664m
Length 1.00m
Mass 120kg
Separation 4 Hard-Point Separation System


RD-0210/RD-0211 (Photo: Khrunichev)

Payload Fairing

The Payload Fairing is positioned on top of the stacked vehicle and its integrated Payload. It protects the spacecraft against aerodynamic, thermal and acoustic environments that the vehicle experiences during atmospheric flight. When the launcher has left the atmosphere, the fairing is jettisoned by pyrotechnically initiated systems. The fairing is attached to the third stage and the Briz-M Upper Stage. Proton-M can be equipped with two different fairing designs. Both are cylindrical in shape, but their overall length and weight varies. Both types of fairing have an inner diameter of 4.35m. The shorter version is 13.31m in length while the large fairing is 15.26m long.
RD-0213 (Photo: Khrunichev)

Payload Adapter

Payload Adapters interface with the vehicle and the payload and are the only attachment point of the payload on the Launcher. They provide equipment needed for spacecraft separation and connections for communication between the Upper Stage and the Payload. The separation system can be based on either the traditional pair of pyrotechnically-initiated bolt cutters or a low-shock Clamp Band Opening Device (CBOD). Four off-the-shelf Payload Adapters are currently available for Proton Flights, however custom designs based on Spacecraft requirements are also provided by Khrunichev, the manufacturer of Proton Adapters.
– LMJS/Khrunichev/Spaceflight101


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