(partial failure) Meridian atop Soyuz-2-1A/Fregat on May 21/22, 2009

SiberianTiger

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Launch site: Plesetsk
Launch date: May 22, 2009

The launch time is:
01:53 Mocsow DST 22.05.2009
21:53 UTC May 21, 2009
4:53 p.m. EDT May 21, 2009

Payload: Meridian military communications satellite

Spacecraft: Meridian (14F112) (meaning Meridium)

The available images vary:




Manufacturer: JSC "Information Satellite Systems Reshetnev Company"


Meridian series satellites serve as a part of the United System of Satellite Communications 2nd generation (USSC-2) used by various governmental agencies of Russia, including the armed forces. Placed in a Molniya orbit, it provides high latitude transponder coverage, while Raduga class satellites residing in the GEO, provide global coverage. Meridian is viewed upon as a replacement for the older Molniya-3 spacecraft class.

It is believed to have a pressurized hull part and overall design similar to Uragan-M class satellites that are currently employed as the mainstay of the GLONASS navigation system. Unlike Molniya series that only worked in the solar-facing attitude, the Meridian has full 3-axis stabilisation and rotating solar arrays.

Meridian satellites reside in Molniya orbits (900 km x 39000 km; 65°)

Launcher: Soyuz-2-1A with Fregat upper stage

No code has to be inserted here.Manufacturer: Samara Space Centre


No code has to be inserted here.It can deliver up to 6830 kg of payload into 220*220 km circular orbit with inclination of 62.8° when launched from Plesetsk.

The upper stage: Fregat (meaning Frigate)


Manufacturer: NPO Lavochkin

The dry mass of a Fregat (as of October 2006) is 924 kg; with fuel the mass is up to 5350 kg. Current modification of the main engine has a specific impulse of 332 s and a thrust of 2018 kg. The reaction control system includes 12 engines, each having 5 kg thrust, 225 s Isp, using pure hydrazine, with mass up to 42 kg.

The vehicle's reliability statistics according to http://www.spacelaunchreport.com/reliability2009.txt:
Code:
================================================================ 
Vehicle     Successes/Tries Realzd Pred  Consc. Last     Dates    
                             Rate  Rate* Succes Fail    
================================================================ 
Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat 2     2#  1.00  .75      2    None     2006-
Launch Profile


A picture of the previous Meridian satellite launch on Dec 24, 2006

After a 9 min long boosting stage, the payload assembly is put into 62.8° inclined initial orbit with mean altitude of 210 km. After a 15 min long coasting, a second Fregat's 613 seconds long burn puts the payload into a transfer orbit. After reaching the apogee, the orbit's shape is finalized.


Weather forecast for Plesetsk, Russia on May 21, 2009


Hi: 18°
Lo: 8°
There is a 0% chance of precipitation. Partly cloudy. Mild. Temperature of 18°C. Winds S 16km. Humidity will be 43% with a dewpoint of 5° and feels-like temperature of 18°C.

Watching the launch live

None available, sorry. :(
 
Last edited:

SiberianTiger

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A successful launch of Meridian satellite has been reported by Russian Space Force. The launch occurred on time off the Soyuz Launch Complex 4 at the site 43 of Plesetsk Cosmodrome:



The spacecraft separation was reported at 04:13 Moscow Local Time (00:13 UTC on May 22, 2009).

NORAD is tracking two objects in the similar orbit, it appears that Meridian is NORAD# 35008, in 276 x 36 474 km orbit with inclination of 62.836° and period 10h 45m 56s (645.93 min).

The orbit looks funny in Orbitron, as it's expected for Molniya orbits:





---------- Post added at 11:54 ---------- Previous post was at 11:48 ----------

The launch video (unfortunately, Rutube won't embed here, so please follow the link). The sight is worthy of standing though listening the blah-blah-blah in the first part.

http://rutube.ru/tracks/1929909.html?v=bc779a301e73730efd645bad31d231f1

---------- Post added at 14:26 ---------- Previous post was at 11:54 ----------

Official messages aside, it looks like we've got here at least a partial failure situation.

During the past Meridian launch:

  • the reached target orbit was about 39500 x 1009 km
  • the time from launch till the spacecraft's separation was around 7 hours in total.

During the current Meridian launch, according to the NORAD elset at epoch 2009-05-22 05:55:41 for the Object A:

  • the orbit is 36473 x 275 km
  • the time from launch till the spacecraft's separation was 2.5 hours.
This gives about 114 m/s Delta V lacking for the intended working orbit.
Combined with the information of the possible premature Fregat separation, it looks very much like the Fregat's failure shortly before the end of the perigee burn (so severe they had to jettison the thing)!

It's not very much clear if the spacecraft possesses the necessary Delta V reserve or if it's OK for it to function in the orbit it's in.

Nevertheless, here are several launch pictures made by observers from distance.

As was seen from Pertrozavodsk (the view across the Onega lake):







As was seen from Vologda (with better optics, evidently):



There are also reports of this launch being visible from Moscow as well (I'm really sorry that I've missed the show).

---------- Post added at 17:40 ---------- Previous post was at 14:26 ----------

As the latest news go, the third stage of the Soyuz LV has cut off 3 seconds short of the intended MECO. The Fregat tried as hard as it could to deliver the payload to the bulls eye, but simply ran its tanks dry trying.

I guess the sat is still useful for providing the communication services for ships and airplanes in Arctics, although it may have a reduced lifetime.
 

SiberianTiger

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A video of the rocket flying and the contrail left by the launch, filmed in Kazan:


The voice in the background:

"Close the door behind me!"
"WTF is that? A comet? H**l, it's so near!"
"Looks like it"
"It has such a tail... That's all, has just hidden behind a cloud"
"O holy s**t!"

:rofl:
 

tblaxland

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Wow, one of the better launch contrails I have seen. Thanks for sharing, as always :cheers:
 

tl8

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So is it going to get high enough?
 

SiberianTiger

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The preliminary conclusion on the failure cause is like the following:

The problem was caused by incorrect input of the payload data into the Fregat upper stage's flight program due to discrepancy of communications between Contractor and Customer. This has caused overconsumption of propellant during the 1st and 2nd Fregat's burns. The 2nd burn cut off preliminary at the low fuel sensor's action. This emergency situation automatically triggered payload separation, which is what happened.

Meanwhile, two tiny burns were performed up to date in attempt to make the satellite's orbit closer to the intended values:

 

tblaxland

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The problem was caused by incorrect input of the payload data into the Fregat upper stage's flight program due to discrepancy of communications between Contractor and Customer. This has caused overconsumption of propellant during the 1st and 2nd Fregat's burns. The 2nd burn cut off preliminary at the low fuel sensor's action.
From your description, I've understood it like this: Customer says "my payload is X kg"; Payload is actually, eg, 1.2*X kg; Contractor loads Fregat propellant to suit payload of X kg; Fregat runs out of fuel trying to boost 1.2*X kg payload.

Would the 1.2*X kg payload (or whatever value it was) have been able to be boosted to the target orbit by the launch system if the Fregat had a full propellant load? If so, is it normal for propellant to be offloaded from the Fregat in this manner and is the objective of such an offload to increase lower stage margins?
 

SiberianTiger

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From your description, I've understood it like this: Customer says "my payload is X kg"; Payload is actually, eg, 1.2*X kg; Contractor loads Fregat propellant to suit payload of X kg; Fregat runs out of fuel trying to boost 1.2*X kg payload.

Would the 1.2*X kg payload (or whatever value it was) have been able to be boosted to the target orbit by the launch system if the Fregat had a full propellant load? If so, is it normal for propellant to be offloaded from the Fregat in this manner and is the objective of such an offload to increase lower stage margins?
Not exactly. As the wording of what I read went, there was no difference in the Fregat's propellant reserve. The only tuning they did was altering values in the upper stage's flight computer's program, and the values put in did not suit the actual payload.

I can only wonder actually what values might have been there. A closest approach may be thinking that Fregat's engine supports burning at different thrust levels, each one having it's own ISP. And they've burnt out too much in the first two burns. I am not sure of this, though.

The top question currently is whether it was Customer who supplied the wrong data to the Contractor or the Contractor's problems with hearing or vision. I don't know if they are going to leak out any more information, or, to everybody's surprise, release something officially.

The official line is that the satellite is launched, period.
 

tblaxland

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A closest approach may be thinking that Fregat's engine supports burning at different thrust levels, each one having it's own ISP. And they've burnt out too much in the first two burns. I am not sure of this, though.
I guess that makes sense but what is the advantage of adjusting the ISP away from some maximum value?

The official line is that the satellite is launched, period.
:lol: Hard to argue with that statement...
 
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