Tag Archives: Briz-M

Russia denies that Proton upper stage failed after launching ExoMars

At a press conference today the head of Roscosmos today countered claims that some failure had occurred after ExoMars was placed on its course to Mars.

Briefing reporters in Moscow, Igor A. Komarov reiterated statements made by Proton prime contractor Khrunichev Space Center of Moscow, saying the Breeze-M upper stage separated ExoMars without incident and then proceeded with the standard passivation and collision-avoidance maneuvers.

Komarov said he had seen photos taken from a Brazilian ground telescope that appeared to show small objects in the vicinity of the Breeze-M stage and ExoMars. “I do have these pictures, provided by the Brazilian observatory, showing the ExoMars spacecraft surrounded by some dimly illuminated objects reportedly related to the upper stage,” Komarov said.

“Telemetry and other objectively verifiable data available to us, covering the entire time from the separation and the contamination and collision avoidance maneuvers to the passivation of the upper stage, show that all these steps have been performed successfully, without any anomalies,” Komarov said. “There is absolutely no indication of an upper-stage explosion or breakup.”

The uncertainty will only be settled in the next few weeks, when engineers activate all of ExoMars instruments. Should they all be working as expected, then it will likely be that nothing had happened to the Briz-M upper stage, as Roscosmos claims. If not, then Russia has a problem, since it depends on that stage for future Proton commercial launches and will not know what went wrong here.

Near disaster for ExoMars

The Russian jinx for going to Mars might not be over yet: New data suggests that the Briz-M upper stage to the Proton rocket exploded shortly after it has propelled ExoMars on its way to Mars and then separated from it.

There appears to be a cloud of debris near the probe, thought to have been caused when the Briz-M stage was to fire its rockets one last time to take it away from ExoMars as well as prevent it from following it to Mars. Instead, it is thought (though not confirmed) that the stage blew up at that moment.

Though so far ExoMars appears to be functioning properly, but they have not yet activated all of its most sensitive instruments. Only when they turn them on in April will we find out if they were damaged in any way by the Briz-M failure.

A Proton rocket has successfully launched a Mexican communications satellite today.

The competition heats up: A Proton rocket has successfully launched a Mexican communications satellite today.

ILS, the company that launches the commercial Proton rocket, needed this success badly, considering the recent problems they have had with the Proton’s Briz-M upper stage.

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

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.

The investigation into the failure of the Proton rocket’s Briz-M upper stage on December 8 has pinpointed the failure to a turbopump.

The investigation into the failure of the Proton rocket’s Briz-M upper stage on December 8 has pinpointed the failure to a turbopump.

While it is a good thing that they have found the cause of the failure, this is not the same component that failed previously. Moreover, after the previous failure the Russians had said they would dismantle and inspect all Briz-M stages under production. It is obvious that they did not find this turbopump problem then.

All told, these issues do not recommend the Briz-M upper stage or the Proton rocket that depends on it. What else might be wrong with this upper stage that they might be missing? Until they can reassure potential customers that this question has been answered, the Russians are going to have a serious problem competing in the increasingly competitive launch market.

During a launch yesterday the upper stage of Russia’s Proton rocket failed to put the satellite into its proper orbit.

Bad news for Russia: During a launch yesterday the upper stage of a Proton rocket failed to put the satellite into its proper orbit.

With this, the third failure in the past 16 months for the Briz-M upper stage, I expect that the Proton’s customers will continue to flee, as has Echostar.

The Russian space agency has ordered the recall and inspection of every Briz-M upper stage used in their Proton rocket.

The Russian space agency has ordered the recall and inspection of every Briz-M upper stage used in their Proton rocket.

This is part of the on-going shake-up of the Russian rocket industry following the recent failures of the upper stage during several commercial launches. One interesting and positive note is that they expect to resume launches in October, which is extremely fast.