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Big Grin 400 Protons > 300 Spartans! Proton-M/Briz-M launch with Yamal-401, December 15, 2014
by Galactic Penguin SST 12-14-2014, 07:51 PM

"Tonight, we dine in hydrazine!" (C)

Think that the 300 Spartans are cool? Then what about 400 Protons?

Just before reaching 50 years of flight history, the "Hydrazine Monster" - one of the most iconic rockets in the world and the most flown one ever in the "Saturn IB class", now reaches yet another milestone in its dramatic history of operations. Early tomorrow we will witness the launch of the 400th flight of the Proton rocket - only the 4th satellite launcher to do such a feat, and the largest of them all by far.

Conceived by the OKB-52 design bureau led by Vladimir Chelomei in the 1960s as the keystone to many of its space projects (which mostly got the axe before started) and even once thought of as a 30-megaton nuclear bomb thrower, it ultimately launches for the first time in July 1965 after overcoming technical difficulties and threats of cancelling the project from various Soviet leaders (including from Sergei Korolev, who ironically would make use of the Proton on his Zond circum-lunar crew flight project later on). But the rocket has the roughest start it could have - not only it has derailed several of the Zond test flights, between January 1969 and February 1970 it has dumped 4 lunar sample return landers, 2 Mars orbiters, 2 Zond spacecraft and a lunar rover back on Earth or towards the wrong place! This was one of several problems that surfaced in the development of Soviet spaceflight programs in the 1960s and one of the factors that would doom their lunar HSF program.

After 1970, however, its record started to get better and it quickly become the heavy workhorse of the Soviets, supporting the launch of space stations (both Korolev's Salyut and Chelomei's Almaz/TKS programs) and interplanetary missions to the Moon, Mars and Venus. Later on many more Protons would launch with the construction and replenishment of the Soviet communication satellites (the Raduga series for the military, the Gorizont series for general communications across the Soviet bloc and the Ekran series for TV broadcasting) and also the GLONASS navigation satellite system.

The Proton got another life in the 1990s that its designers would have never imagined. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Proton suddenly become an obvious choice for commercial launch services, especially in the heated comsat market. Within years of its first such launch in April 1996, it has leaped into solid second place in market share, beating competitors like Sea Launch and even its former ally Lockheed Martin's Atlas. While its position has been severely damaged by its recent relative unsteadiness compared with its contemporaries, the Proton is still rolling along even after the long string of failures. And with its replacement Angara having a slow start (which is another story, for another day ), the Proton may get a chance to fly more than 500 times and still being operational into at least the mid-2020s. Mind-blowing, isn't it?

The passenger of today's flight fell to Yamal-401, a new communication satellite for the Russian industry giant Gazprom's space division. But before talking about it, we must remember that it was a last minute substitute for this title! The original plan was to complete this milestone back on November 28 with the Astra 2G satellite from SES, with Yamal-401 flying on the, erm, 401st Proton. But a gyroscope problem on the Briz-M flying with Astra 2G forced a roll back and slipped its launch to December 28, leaving Yamal-401 with this title. Well, maybe it's history's way of making sure that such a milestone should be completed with a Russian built satellite built for a Russian customer on board.

Yamal-401, like Express-AM5 and Express-AM6 that flew some time ago, are built on Russia's current largest communication satellite bus - ISS Reshetnev's Ekspress-2000. The 2976 kg satellite will carry 53 transponders for use across Russia, especially across the remote regions of Siberia (where it will help cut the price for satellite Internet to 1/3 of today's price). Like most Russian comsats, it will be placed directly into geostationary orbit by the Proton.

Considering its last experience with Gazprom, one must stress the importance of in keeping a successful launch this time, plus for the next 100 flights till no. 500!

This is the 2nd commercial mission of the year for ILS and the 86th ILS Proton mission since the first commercial flight of the Proton in April 1996.

This is the 2 nd Gazprom Space Systems satellite launched on ILS Proton and the 1st ISS Reshetnev-built satellite launched on Proton.

Launch location:

Baikonur Launch pad no. 81/24 46°4'15.38"N, 62°59'5.11"E

Launch dates and times:

Launch times
Time Zone
Baikonur / UTC+6
Moscow / UTC+3
Universal / UTC
Washington / EST
Los Angeles / PST
Launch time (Primary):
Dec. 15, 2014
Dec. 15, 2014
Dec. 15, 2014
Dec. 14, 2014
Dec. 14, 2014
*Click here to restart the timer* Yamal-401 Launch

Live Coverage Of The Launch:


Yamal-401 communication satellite:

Mission Summary
At an orbital location of 90 degrees East longitude, the Yamal-401 communications satellite will provide services to users in Russia and CIS countries. The combined payload of the satellite will include 17 x 72 MHz transponders in standard C-band, 18 x 72 MHz transponders in standard Ku-band and 18 x 36 MHz transponders in planned frequencies of Ku-band. The total capacity of the Yamal-401 satellite will amount to 53 physical transponders or 88 equivalent (36 MHz) transponders, which will compose 1 fixed beam in C-band covering Russia and CIS countries and 2 fixed beams in Ku-band (Russian and Northern). JSC Gazprom Space Systems has ensured the development of the ground infrastructure to control and operate the satellite. With the addition of the Yamal-401 satellite into the company’s orbital constellation, JSC Gazprom Space Systems will strengthen its position in the global space communications market.

Working Orbit:
Orbital Location:
90° East
ApA at separation:
35669 km
PeA at separation:
35669 km
Inc at separation:

  • Gazprom Space Systems
Prime contractor:
  • ISS Reshetnev
  • Ekspress-2000
Mass at Separation:
  • 2976 kg
Dry Mass:
  • ?
  • 3 axis stabilized
Dimensions (stowed):
  • ?
  • Solar panels providing 10.6 kW power
  • 36 Ku-band transponders
  • 17 C-band transponders
Life time:
  • 15 years

Launch Vehicle:

Proton-M / Briz-M
Prime contractor:
  • Khrunichev Space Centre
GRAU Index:
  • 8K82KM
58.2 m with upper stage and payload fairing
max 7.4 m
Liftoff mass:
705 metric tonnes
Payload mass:
~22 tonnes at LEO
1st stage:
  • 6 X RD-275 engines
  • Empty 30.6 tonnes
  • Propellants 419.41 tonnes (UDMH and NTO)
  • Thrust in vacuum 1069.8 tonnes of force
  • Thrust at sea level 971.4 tonnes of force
2nd stage:
  • 1 X RD-0211 engine 3 X RD-0210 engines
  • Empty 11.4 tonnes
  • Propellants 156.113 tonnes (UDMH and NTO)
  • Thrust in vacuum 237.4 tonnes of force
3rd stage:
  • 1 X RD-0213 engine & 1 X RD-0214 vernier engine
  • Empty 3.7 tonnes
  • Propellants 46.562 tonnes (UDMH and NTO)
  • Thrust in vacuum 59.36 (core) + 3.15 (vernier) tonnes of force
Upper Stage:
  • GRAU Index: 14S43
  • Common Name: Briz-M
  • Designer & Manufacturer: Khrunichev Space Centre
  • Dimensions: Length 2.654 m, Diameter 4 m
  • Empty Mass 2.2 tonnes
  • Propellants 6 660 kg UDMH + 13 260 kg N2O4
  • Flight time: no less than 24 hours
  • Main Engine: 1 X 14D30
  • Thrust in vacuum 2.0 tonnes of force
  • ISP 328.6 s
  • Main engine restarts: up to 8 times
  • Precision Manoeuvering Engines: 4 X 11D458
  • Thrust in vacuum 400 N each
  • ISP 252 s
  • RCS Engines: 12 X 17D58E
  • Thrust in vacuum 13.3 N each
  • ISP 274 s
Payload Fairing:
  • Diameter 4.35 m
  • Length 11.6 m

The vehicle's reliability statistics according to http://www.spacelaunchreport.com/log2014.html#rate:

Vehicle     Successes/Tries Realzd Pred  Consc. Last     Dates    
                             Rate  Rate* Succes Fail    
Proton-M/Briz-M   69    76    .91  .90      0    10/21/14 2001-

Yamal-401 Ascent Profile
The Proton-M first three stages place the orbital unit (OU), which consists of a Breeze-M upper stage, adapter system and Yamal-401, into a 51.5° inclination suborbital trajectory.

Proton-M powered flight lasts 582 seconds. The OU powered flight begins at the moment of the third stage separation.

Immediately after the separation of the third stage booster, the Breeze-M stability engines start, damping the angular velocities of the third stage separation and then providing orbital unit orientation and stability during coast flight along a suborbital trajectory to await the first burn. The upper stage follows a five-burn injection profile.

Yamal-401 Ascent Timeline

EventTime rel lift-offTime UTCComment
Ignition Start Sequence-00:00:02.500:15:57.5 
Stage 1 Ignition (40% thrust)-00:00:01.7500:15:58.25 
Command Stage 1 (100% thrust)-00:00:00.900:15:59.1 
Maximum Dynamic Pressure00:01:0200:17:02 
1st/2nd Stage Separation00:02:0000:18:00 
2nd/3rd Stage Separation00:05:2700:21:27 
Payload Fairing Separation00:05:4700:21:47 
3rd Stage/Breeze M Separation00:09:4200:25:42 
1st Burn Ignition00:11:1600:27:16 
1st Burn Shutdown00:15:2200:31:221st Burn's Duration 00:04:06
2nd Burn Ignition01:07:2801:23:28 
2nd Burn Shutdown01:25:2301:41:232nd Burn's Duration 00:17:55
3rd Burn Ignition03:28:5703:44:57 
3rd Burn Shutdown03:46:5804:02:583rd Burn's Duration 00:18:01
APT Jettison03:48:1904:04:19 
4th Burn Ignition08:47:0909:03:09 
4th Burn Shutdown09:00:1409:16:144th Burn's Duration 00:13:05
Spacecraft Separation09:01:2409:17:24 

Weather forecast for Baikonur, Kazakhstan on December 15, 2014 (6 a.m.)

Cloudy. High -1C. Winds ESE at 10 to 15 km/h.

TimeTempsDew PointRelative HumidityPrecipSnowCloud coverPressureWindWeather
6 AM-11°C-13°C81%0%0%30%1033 hPa10 km/h SE Partly Cloudy

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Old 12-14-2014, 10:11 PM   #2
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Let's hope nobody will forget his wrench in a propellant tank or something like that...
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Old 12-15-2014, 12:01 AM   #3
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Live coverage has started.

Launch. So far so good.

Proton did its thing.
It's all up to the Briz-M now.

Last edited by boogabooga; 12-15-2014 at 12:36 AM.
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Old 12-15-2014, 03:35 AM   #4
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Yup, and that tug is the less reliable component.

Anyway, the 1st and 2nd burns were executed as planned. 2 remaining.

Spaceflight Now :

0152 GMT (8:52 p.m. EST)

The Breeze M upper stage has finished the second of four burns planned for today's mission, ILS says. The nearly 18-minute burn was supposed to place the stage and Yamal 401 in an intermediate orbit with a low point of 164 miles, a high point of 3,106 miles and an inclination of 49.9 degrees.

After a two-hour coast, the Breeze M is expected to ignite its main engine again at about 0345 GMT (10:45 p.m. EST) for another maneuver, followed by the jettison of the stage's auxiliary propellant tank.

ILS says these maneuvers will occur when the Breeze M is out of communications with ground stations, so confirmation of their completion will come when antennas re-acquire signals from the rocket shortly after the end of the third burn.
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Old 12-15-2014, 03:41 AM   #5
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It amazes me that ground track for these later burns are not populated with tracking stations. Especially with the reliability problems of the Briz-M, one would think that real-time telemetry would be a priority.

Seriously, how hard would it be to station a telemetry ship in the South Atlantic?
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Old 12-15-2014, 10:23 AM   #7
Galactic Penguin SST
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Yamal-401 is now in geostationary orbit!
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Old 12-15-2014, 03:28 PM   #8
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Well done Proton-M/Breeze-M !
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Old 12-15-2014, 10:14 PM   #9

Originally Posted by boogabooga View Post
 Seriously, how hard would it be to station a telemetry ship in the South Atlantic?
Technologically? Probably not much. Financially? Probably too much.

The main selling point of the Proton is that it's cheap so you keep it cheap.
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Old 12-15-2014, 11:37 PM   #10
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Well how much do the investigations cost when a briz-M dumps a comsat in Siberia?
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Old 12-16-2014, 03:30 AM   #11

Just a little problem, the tracking ship in the South Atlantic would be needed for every launch (so they would probably need more than one for that purpose, too, and with what homebase?) while the investigations aren't.

Also even if you had live telemetry you still need an investigation. Challenger even had live video. The investigation still wasn't solved within a minute.
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Old 12-21-2014, 07:22 AM   #12
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