Launch News Proton-M/Block-DM-03 launch with Express-AM8, September 14/15, 2015

Galactic Penguin SST

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Just less than 3 weeks after its strike back from the abyss, the infamous Proton rocket is about to make another attempt in breaking one of its many curses. This one though is quite stronger than many others (such as its lack of new commercial launch contracts, broken just hours earlier with one order from Spain's Hispasat), so remember to :hailprobe: before watching the launch today!

This very curse is related to Proton's "other upper stage". Well maybe this isn't the correct description to use, for its use has a much longer history than the much maligned Breeze-M!

Members here who are well versed to Russian spaceflight will probably know that well before the Breeze-M, or in fact almost every rocket out there today existed, the "standard" upper stage for the Soviet heavy lift rocket is Korolev's Block-D, a kerosene powered stage that had super long coasting ability for its day and would have been the key for braking into lunar orbit for Soviet human lunar landing missions had the project went that far (a.k.a the "5th stage" for the N1-L3 complex). However, it was borrowed early on for the precursor Zond human circum-lunar flights program, in which the Block-D was coupled with the Proton rocket from Korolev's competitor Chelomey for the push to the Moon.

Of course, we all know where the program went, but the Proton-Block-D couple stuck and become the Soviet's man heavy lift booster to beyond low Earth orbit, launching lunar rovers and sample return missions, flights to Venus, Mars and Halley's Comet, and supporting the construction of the Soviet satellite communication and TV broadcasting networks, missile warning satellites, and the GLONASS navigation satellite system, just to name a few. When the Soviet Union came down, Proton-Block-D became one of the world's largest available commercial satellite launcher of the mid-1990s and in 1996 it entered commercial service, supporting the launcher's first 6 years in the market until the more powerful Proton-M/Breeze-M replaced it for ILS launches in 2002. By then the Block-D was usually more seen with the Zenit rocket, used as the upper stage for Zenit-3 launches with Sea Launch and Land Launch.

Even after that, the Block-D soldered on with the Proton as the Russians keep it as an alternative upper stage (some say because the Block-D's higher thrust means better orbit insertion accuracy than using the Breeze-M), flying one or two missions per year with comsats built by Russian themselves and (mainly) GLONASS navsat replenishment missions. Today the Block-D has flown on more than 320 launches, about 100 more than the famed Centaur and only about 40 less than the "ultimate American upper stage" Agena.

So where does the curse come from? Well a few years ago Khrunichev and RSC Energia decided to improve the Proton/Block-D combo's ability and decided to enlarge the fuel tanks of the then in use Block-D variant. This version is known as the Block DM-03. While its use on the Proton might be limited, RSC Energia plans to use the same stage on the Zenit-3 and even as one of the upper stages for the new Angara-5.

Its first flight was on a "harmless" GLONASS triple replenishment satellite launch on December 5, 2010. Well harmless indeed, except that workers on Baikonur forgot to update their liquid oxygen fueling manual and they keep the same percentage of LOX loaded on the new larger stage. The result was a 1.5 tonne overweight Block-DM-03 and the stage never had a chance to fire before falling back to Earth with its payloads, setting off the current string of Proton launch accidents over the past 6 years.

Due to several unrelated accidents in the months after that, the Block-DM-03 did not have a chance to redeem itself until July 2, 2013, when the Russians planned to send another 3 GLONASS navsats.

We all know what happened on that overcast Baikonur morning. The Block-DM-03 didn't even stand a chance of being deployed in space.

And so, after 26 months of more head-banging and face-palming related to the Proton, the Block-DM-03 is ready at Baikonur to prove itself on its 3rd try to fire, and fire correctly. Due to the very bleak future prospect of the Zenit, the Proton is the only rocket the veteran Block-D will fly with until Angara-5 flights become more common. And it badly needs a test flight before it could be put into regular service and continue its legacy.

Well, there's at least one thing that is different this time - the passenger on board! Unlike the last two flights, the DM-03 will fly a communication satellite directly into geostationary orbit. Express-AM8 is the newest comsat for the Russia's state comsat operator RSCC, using the medium-sized Express-1000 platform from Russia's largest comsat constructor ISS Reshetnev. The 2.1 tonne satellite will provide coverage to the Europe side of Russia, as well as Europe, Africa and even South America.

Good luck to the Block-DM! :hailprobe:

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Launch location:

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

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Launch dates and times:

{colsp=6}Launch times

Time Zone |
Baikonur / UTC+6
|
Moscow / UTC+3
|
Universal / UTC
|
Washington / EDT
|
Los Angeles / PDT
Launch time (Primary):
|
01:00:00​
|
22:00:00​
|
19:00:00​
|
15:00:00​
|
12:00:00​
on:
|
Sep. 15, 2015
|
Sep. 14, 2015
|
Sep. 14, 2015
|
Sep. 14, 2015
|
Sep. 14, 2015

{colsp=6}
[highlight][eventTimer]2015-09-14 19:00:00?before|after;%dd% Days %hh% Hours %mm% Minutes %ss% Seconds %c%[/eventTimer] Express-AM8 Launch[/highlight]​

Live Coverage Of The Launch:



PAYLOAD

Express-AM8 communication satellite:

am8.png__1280x450_q85_crop_subsampling-2_upscale.png


Mission Summary

The Ekspress-AM 8 is a communications satellite for russian domestic communication services. While the spacecraft itself is built by russian RSCC (Kosmicheskiya Svyaz), the communication payload is built by Thales Alenia Space.

The Express-AM8 Ekspress-1000NTB based satellite will generate 5.9 kilowatts of end-of-life power to a payload consisting of 24 C-band, 12 Ka-band and 2 L-band transponders.

Ekspress-AM8 was originally to be launched in 2012 or 2013 into RSCC’s 14 degrees west orbital slot, but was delayed to 2015. It will use a Proton-M Blok-DM-03 launch vehicle.

{colsp=2}Summary
Parameter | Value
Working Orbit:​
| GEO
Orbital Location:​
| 14° West
Coverage:​
| Russia, Europe, Africa, South America
ApA at separation:​
| 35786 km
PeA at separation:​
| 35786 km
Inc at separation:​
| 0.0°

Characteristics|
Express-AM8
Customer:​
|
  • Russian Satellite Communications Company
    russian-satellite-communications-company-rscc-lg.jpg
Prime contractor:​
|
  • JSC Information Satellite Systems (ISS Reshetnev)
    logo_iss.png
Platform:​
|
  • Express-1000NTB
Mass at Separation:​
|
  • 2100 kg
Dry Mass:​
|
  • ?
Stabilization:​
|
  • 3 axis stabilized
Dimensions (stowed):​
|
  • ?
Batteries:​
|
  • solar panels providing 5.88 kW of power
Payload:​
|
  • 24 C-band transponders
  • 12 Ku-band transponders
  • 2 L-band transponders
Life time:​
|
  • 15 years
C-band coverage:​
|
  • am8-21-nov13.jpg
  • am8-america_c2_.jpg
Ku-band coverage:​
|
  • am8-23-nov13.jpg
  • am8-24-nov13.jpg
  • am8-25-nov132.jpg

|
show_file.php


Launch Vehicle:

{colsp=2}Characteristics

gl2_protonM-DM.jpg
|
{colsp=2}
Proton-M / Block DM-03
Prime contractor:​
|
  • Khrunichev Space Centre
GRAU Index:​
|
  • 8K82KM
Height:​
| ~57 m with upper stage and payload fairing

Diameter:​
| max 7.4 m

Liftoff mass:​
| ~700 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:​
|
DMinFarning.gif
  • GRAU Index: 11S861-03
  • Common Name: Block DM-03
  • Designer: RKK Energia
  • Manufacturer: "Krasmash" Krasnoyarsk Machine Building Plant
  • 1 X RD-58M engine
  • Empty 2.2 tonnes
  • Diameter 4.1 m
  • Propellants 15.095 tonnes (LOX and Kerosene RG-1)
  • Thrust in vacuum 8.67 tonnes of force
  • ISP 254 s
  • Flight time 7-21 hours
Payload Fairing:​
|
  • Diameter 4.35 m
  • Length 10 m

The vehicle's reliability statistics according to http://www.spacelaunchreport.com/log2015.html#rate:

Code:
================================================================ 
Vehicle     Successes/Tries Realzd Pred  Consc. Last     Dates    
                             Rate  Rate* Succes Fail    
================================================================
Proton-M/DM-03     0     2    .00  .25      0    7/2/13   2010-

Express-AM8 Ascent Timeline
Event|Time rel lift-off|Time UTC|Comment
Ignition Start Sequence|-00:00:02.5|18:59:57.5|
Stage 1 Ignition (40% thrust)|-00:00:01.75|18:59:58.25|
Command Stage 1 (100% thrust)|-00:00:00.9|18:59:59.1|
Maximum Dynamic Pressure|00:01:02|19:01:02|
1st/2nd Stage Separation|00:02:04|19:02:04|
2nd/3rd Stage Separation|00:05:36|19:05:36|
Payload Fairing Separation|00:05:49|19:05:49|
3rd Stage/Block DM-03 Separation|00:09:46|19:09:46|
1st Burn Ignition|00:15:45|19:15:45|
1st Burn Shutdown|00:16:53|19:16:53|1st Burn's Duration 00:01:08
2nd Burn Ignition|01:13:06|20:13:06|
2nd Burn Shutdown|01:21:08|20:21:08|2nd Burn's Duration 00:08:02
3rd Burn Ignition|06:32:47|01:32:47|
3rd Burn Shutdown|06:36:31|01:36:31|3rd Burn's Duration 00:03:44
Express-AM8 Separation|06:37:01|01:37:01|

Weather forecast for Baikonur, Kazakhstan on September 15, 2015 (1 a.m.)

Clear to partly cloudy. Low 9C. Winds NE at 10 to 15 km/h.

Time|Temps|Dew Point|Relative Humidity|Precip|Snow|Cloud cover|Pressure|Wind|Weather
1 AM|13°C|4°C|57%|0%|0%|22%|1025 hPa|6 km/h NE|
nt_clear.svg
Clear

References
http://www.federalspace.ru
http://tvroscosmos.ru
http://www.khrunichev.ru
http://tihiy.fromru.com/Rn/RN_Proton.htm
http://www.satbeams.net
http://rscc.ru
http://www.iss-reshetnev.ru/
http://space.skyrocket.de
http://www.tsenki.com
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com
http://www.novosti-kosmonavtiki.ru
http://www.spacelaunchreport.com
http://english.wunderground.com/q/locid:KZXX0055
 
Last edited:

Galactic Penguin SST

Geek Penguin in GTO
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Well as you can see with the lack of further posts, the Block DM-03 performed flawlessly. Another curse down for the time being for the Proton. :tiphat:

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