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


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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.

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