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November 6, 2008

We are pleased to announce another successful launch mission with the Proton M Breeze M rocket, carrying the Astra 1M satellite built by EADS Astrium for SES ASTRA. Spacecraft separation occurred, as scheduled, at 4 minutes before 1 a.m. EST. Total launch time was 9 hours, 12 minutes.

November 6, 2008

The Breeze M has successfully completed its 3rd and 4th burns. The additional propellant fuel tank was successfully jettisoned as well. The vehicle is in a five-hour coasting period. A 5th and final burn will occur at the end of that period, with separation of the Astra 1M spacecraft expected about 12 minutes after the 5th burn. We'll be back to report on that event as soon as we have confirmation.

November 6, 2008

The Breeze M has successfully completed its 3rd and 4th burns. The additional propellant fuel tank was successfully jettisoned as well. The vehicle is in a five-hour coasting period. A 5th and final burn will occur at the end of that period, with separation of the Astra 1M spacecraft expected about 12 minutes after the 5th burn. We'll be back to report on that event as soon as we have confirmation.

November 5, 2008

We have just received confirmation of the completion of Breeze M's second burn. Next up, in about two hours, the Breeze M will burn for a 3rd time, for about 10 minutes. Then it will shutdown and jettison the additional propellant tank. After jettisoning the tank, a 4th burn will begin. We will post an update when we get confirmation of the completion of the fourth burn.

November 5, 2008

The Breeze M vehicle has completed its first burn. We expect confirmation that the second burn has been completed in just over one hour from now.

November 5, 2008

The Proton M vehicle has successfully carried out its first-, second- and third-stage separations. The mission is now handed off to the Breeze M upper stage, which has just begun its first burn. We'll announce completion of that burn as soon as we have confirmation.

November 5, 2008

We have liftoff of the Proton M Breeze M rocket and the Astra 1M satellite! The first burn should ignite in about 11 minutes and will last just under eight minutes. Stay tuned for further updates.

November 4, 2008

[img][/img] Yesterday was a long and exciting day here in Baikonur. After receiving the OK last night from the State Commission it was time to send the ILV on its trip to Launch Pad 39. As we learned at the Gagarin Museum, it is a Russian tradition for the locomotive to start its journey at 6:30 a.m. local time. Not wanting to break with tradition, we were all out to see the convoy off at 6:30 a.m. for the 2-1/2 hour journey to its new home on pad 39. At about 9 a. m. everyone who wanted to attend was permitted on the pad deck to watch the incredible sight as the assembled ILV rolled horizontally into position. Then the ILV was hydraulically rotated to its vertical launch position. This process is called the tilting or the erection. Talk about a photo opportunity! The anticipation continues to build as we started to what is referred to as the 7/701 script. This is the official countdown schedule that will bring us to launch day.

October 30, 2008

[img][/img] As we get closer to our launch date, the number of activities is increasing... One of the more "technical" operations that we have to perform is to sign the payload fairing. The biggest decision is what to write and who to dedicate the launch to: parents, children and loved ones… all of the names are on the fairing as a tribute from the launch team members. When signing festivities were complete, the rail transporter was positioned in Hall 101 so the Ascent Unit could be lifted from the tilter and positioned over the transporter. The transporter is a locomotive car designed to support the AU on its journey to Hall 111. This is the hall that houses the complete Proton Breeze M rocket, which will take the ASTRA 1M satellite into orbit. Very little time was wasted before the AU was mated to the launch vehicle (LV). With the AU on its rail dolly, the Khrunichev specialists hand- cranked the unit and aligned it with the LV. Mating operations were performed and there were no anomalies. It was finally one complete unit, known as the Integrated Launch Vehicle (ILV). Needless to say, there was a lot of excitement as everyone saw all of the pieces together for the first time. All of the teams are now wrapping up preparations for the final leg of a long journey. Tomorrow we are off to the Breeze M fueling station and then to Launch Pad!

October 28, 2008

It has been a very busy few days here in Baikonur. After a successful mating of the SC to the Breeze M, it was time to say goodbye to the SC, at least, visually. As the SC hovered horizontally above the rail track, the bottom half of the fairing was situated on a rail car below. Sitting in its cradle, the lower half of the fairing was hand cranked into position under the SC. Then the upper half was hoisted up by crane, positioned above the SC and lowered to mate with the bottom half. Under the watchful eyes of the Astrium and KhSC teams, the maneuvers were successfully executed and the Astra 1M SC was officially encapsulated in preparation for its ride into orbit. This newly assembled configuration is called the ascent unit (AU). Now that the two halves are secured, the team will spend the next couple of days performing electrical tests and verifying that, although encapsulated, it is still possible to communicate with the SC. Soon it will be time to mate the AU to the Proton launch vehicle!

October 21, 2008

[img][/img] Yesterday morning we started the next major phase of our campaign. The SC was rolled out from Hall 103 into Hall 101 and prepared for mating to the launch vehicle adapter. By 8 a.m. it was suspended from the lift and the gentle process of setting it down on the adapter was underway. The specialists from RUAG (formerly known as SAAB Space) installed and tightened the clampband, which holds the SC to the adapter. Next, the whole SC (with the adapter now attached), will be lifted and placed atop the Breeze M upper stage. As always the team work was remarkable, they don’t call this phase joint operations for nothing!

October 15, 2008

[img][/img] Yesterday, October 14, the propellant team loaded the hydrazine fuel onto the SC. This operation is the second half of the propellant load. It marks the completion of the propellant loading phase of SC preps. Kudos to all the ASTRA 1M teams for an excellent job! Everything went smoothly and according to plan. If anything was to be said about the day, it would be “uneventful.” But an “uneventful” day during fueling is a great day, and that is exactly how we want operations to continue! Because the propellant loading is a hazardous operation, the building was of course cleared of all non-essential personnel. Once again the team had the great fortune of being able to return to the Soyuz Launch site, this time to the pad. Yes, only 2 days after the manned launch we were able to visit the launch pad. Several of us actually walked up the same stairs as the astronauts/cosmonauts did on Sunday (no rocket of course). Thank you, KhSC, for taking such great care of us. During our stay here in Baikonur the normal form of transportation is bus, van, walking or bicycle. However, this afternoon we had the pleasure of a true Kazakh experience… the camel! I think we all prefer the camel.

October 8, 2008

[img][/img] The morning of October 7th started out like any other day here in Baikonur, until we had a visitor at the Fili Hotel. A local owl flew in to tell us that a little birdie told him…Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was sharing his birthday today with our own Joelle! We have always known she was special! So, let us all eat cake...or as the French say, “quel chouette anniversaire!” For the rest of the day, the teams continued with all the stand-alone electrical testing and are on track for SC propellant loading on Thursday. The loading of the propellant is a critical step, in that it allows the load of highly hazardous chemicals into the tanks on board the SC. Everyone is currently preparing for the propellant loading meeting where we will review the readiness of all systems, organizations, processes and procedures for loading SC propellant.

October 6, 2008

Upon arrival, the SC container was opened, offloaded, placed on the floor of the hall, and all the associated equipment was placed in the areas to support the unpacking and testing of the SC. The SC was then moved into its temporary new home. Since then Astrium has been busy testing the Astra 1M SC in what is known as stand-alone operations. This is the time in the beginning of the launch campaign when the SC contractors work alone to test and verify that the SC is “healthy." When all the configuration steps are completed and the SC is completely ready to go, we start "joint operations," where the SC is integrated with the Proton LV. Right now, they are in the process of testing and verifying that the SC is completely healthy before we proceed to the next step, which will be to load propellants into the tanks inside the SC. In parallel, the SC propellant loading team has been busy with all their checkouts and preparations. Everything is proceeding per the plan which was prepared by SES, Astrium, ILS and KhSC.

September 29, 2008

[img][/img] The ASTRA 1M satellite has landed in Baikonur! The fifth ILS launch campaign of 2008 is officially under way. The ASTRA 1M spacecraft arrived at the Yubileiny Airport at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, the morning of 27 September. The spacecraft and all the equipment needed for ground operations to prepare the spacecraft for launch was carried by an Antonov 124 Russian cargo plane operated by a Russian carrier, Polet. As always it an amazing sight because the Antonov is the largest cargo airplane in production today. And if you think that gas prices have affected you… can you imagine what the one-way fuel bill was for this trip from Toulouse, France, to Baikonur? The Yubileiny airport version of the “Welcome Wagon” flew in along with the aircraft and stayed to supervise the off-loading of the SC. The "Welcome Wagon," or commonly referred to as a Steppe Eagle, is indigenous to Kazakhstan, which has the largest population of eagles and falcons in Asia. We asked him to stay for the ILS Team photo but he had another plane to catch. Anyway, after the plane cleared customs the team snapped into action to open and remove the support equipment and SC container from the airplane. In just about five hours, we had all the equipment offloaded and secured to the train that transported the SC to the processing facility. The SC, in its container, made its way on the train from the airport to the processing facility, referred to as 92A-50. The main room of this building, known as Hall 101, is absolutely huge - more than large enough to accommodate all the train cars containing the SC and support equipment with room to spare for a soccer game if so inclined! The SC container was offloaded, placed on the floor of the hall, and this is where it spent the night. More adventures to come soon...

July 18, 2008

Welcome to the fifth ILS Proton launch campaign for 2008 – the launch of the EADS Astrium-built ASTRA 1M satellite for SES ASTRA. Follow along with the launch team as they prepare for the late October mission.

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