Behind The Black Postings By Robert Zimmerman

Russian investigators, having pinpointed the cause of a December 2012 launch failure, have cleared the Proton rocket to resume commercial launches in March.

It is interesting that this failure of the Proton’s Briz-M upper stage was not related to two previous failures of that same upper stage. It is also interesting that the article does not describe what actions have been taken to correct the problem.

If I was a future Proton launch customer I would be very concerned. Three launch failures all related to the Briz-M upper stage, and all from different causes. This appears to suggest some fundamental problems with the stage itself, or with the company that manufactures it.

  1. Chris Kirkendall says:

    Sounds like a Quality Control problem – when maunfacturing is inconsistent & problems come from multiple sources, the suspicion is that their system may not be under good control. Sounds to me like they may need systems in place to ensure mfg specs & tolerance limits are consisterntly applied & adhered to…

    • That’s assuming the original specs are adequate. QC can only control to the existing specifications. Given that the failures are all from disparate sources may indicate a QC problem, but at this point I’d be looking at the original engineering.

  2. Chris Kirkendall says:

    Yep, that’s a definite possibility as well. But wasn’t that design previously reasonably successful ?? I thought that one’s been around awhile & had successful launches earlier, which would indicate the design itself may be sound, but when sudden mutiple problems crop up, it might lead us to believe specs were not adhered to or other quality issues were ignored. I have no experience in engineering or aerosapce, but work in a quality environment & that’s kind of been the case with things we’ve seen. Another possibility – co’s that contract out some of their work & substitute cheaper, lower-quality components suddenly run into trouble. Again, I’ll defer to the experts in the field, but similar quailty issues seem to crop up in almost any kind of manufacturing environment…

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