The competition heats up: Russia has set September 28 as the next launch date for its troubled Proton rocket.
The most interesting detail gleaned from this article however is this:
The Proton-M carrier rocket previously launched on May 16 from Baikonur space center collided with communications satellite Express АМ4R and burned up in the atmosphere above China, leaving Russia without its most powerful telecommunications satellite.
Previous reports had not been very clear about the causes of the May launch failure. All they would say is that “a failed bearing in the steering engine’s turbo pump” had caused the failure about nine minutes into the flight. This report suggests that this failure occurred after separation of the payload and that it then caused the upper stage to collide with the satellite.
Russia is also about to ship its new Angara 5 rocket to the launch site for a planned December launch. This will be the first launch of the Angara configuration that is expected to replace the Proton rocket, and is expected to place a dummy payload into geosynchronous orbit.
The rocket will be equipped with four URM-1 boosters, acting as the first stage, and a single “core” URM-1, performing the role of the second stage. All five URM-1s will ignite on the ground, however, the central core will operate at lower thrust during the part of the flight. As a result, the four first-stage boosters will consume their propellant and separate first, followed by the separation of the “core” URM-1 booster. The third-stage URM-2 then will take over the powered phase of the flight, delivering its payload section to the initial Earth orbit.
According to Yuri Bakhvalov, Designer General of KB Salyut, which developed the Angara rocket, the payload section will include an upper stage (Briz-M borrowed from the Proton-M rocket), and a dummy satellite. The Briz-M will likely demonstrate a typical mission to deliver a satellite to the so-called geostationary transfer orbit from where the payload would typically transfer itself to the final geostationary orbit with the use of its own propulsion system. Such a mission profile is routinely followed by the Proton-M rocket and many other space vehicles around the world.
On July 14, the first deputy to Roskosmos head Aleksandr Ivanov confirmed in interview with Ekho Moskvy radio station that during its first mission in December, Angara-5 would deliver a mockup of payload to a geostationary orbit.
This announcement also strongly suggests that the results from the first suborbital demo mission of Angara were completely satisfactory.
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