Yamal satellite failed to reach final orbit over Briz-M engine failure - source

December 10, 2012 RBTH, Interfax

The failure of the propulsion engine of the Briz-M upper stage was apparently the reason why it failed to place Yamal-402 satellite in the planned orbit, a well-informed source in the space industry told Interfax-AVN on Monday.

"A tentative analysis of telemetric data indicates that the reason for the premature shut-down of the Briz-M upper stage is most likely related to the malfunctioning of its propulsion engine," the source said.

The Briz-M upper stage was designed and is serially produced at the Khrunichev Space Center. The propulsion engines for Briz-M are manufactured by the Isayev Designer Bureau in Korolyov, Moscow region.

The upper stage failed to place the Yamal-402 communication satellite in the final orbit on Sunday. When its engine was fired for the fourth time, it operated for five instead of nine minutes and the flight sequence of the satellite was distorted. Fuel from the satellite's storages will have to be burned additionally to take it to the planned position which may reduce the service life of the satellite.

It was the second failure of the Briz-M upper stage since the beginning of the year.

A Proton-M LV took off from Baikonur on August 6 with the Briz-M upper stage and two communication satellites - Russia's Express-MD2 and Indonesia's Telkom 3. The LV functioned regularly. The satellites were supposed to be placed in final orbits through four firings of the propulsion engine of the upper stage. The third firing was shorter than due.

As a result, the satellites were placed in the wrong orbits. An ad-hoc commission concluded that the incident had been caused by clogging of the Briz-M fuel supply system.

The leadership of the Khrunichev Space Center - the designer and manufacturer of the upper stage - was replaced following the incident.

Later, the Briz-M exploded in orbit forming clouds of space debris consisting of hundreds of fragments.

Earlier reports said that the Aerospace Defense Forces cancelled the launch of a military satellite by a Rockot LV and Briz-KM upper stage from the Plesetsk cosmodrome scheduled for December.

Aerospace Defense Forces spokesman Alexei Zolotukhin said that the Rockot launch, earlier set for Decю 8, was rescheduled due to a defect in the Briz-KM upper stage.

"A new date is to be selected after the defect is fixed," he said.

Briz-KM upper stages are manufactured by the Khrunichev state space center. 

Defects were uncovered in the command system of the upper stage as it was being prepared for the launch, a source in the Russian space industry told Interfax-AVN.

In August 2011, an Expess-AM4 satellite was placed in the wrong orbit. It was also launched by a Proton-M LV with the Briz-M upper stage.

All three components - the LV, upper stage and satellite - had been designed and manufactured by Khrunichev. The upper stage was blamed for the failure.

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