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August 11, 2009

We have had a successful mission with the ILS Proton Breeze M rocket, carrying the AsiaSat 5 satellite built by Space Systems Loral for Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Ltd (AsiaSat). We have had confirmation that the satellite separated from the vehicle on schedule at 1:02 a.m.Eastern Time, or 05:02 GMT, 9 hours and 15 minutes after liftoff.

August 11, 2009

We have confirmed that the Breeze M upper stage has successfully completed its 3rd burn, as well as jettisoning its additional propellant tank. The vehicle is now in a 5-hour coast period, during which we will have nothing to report. The 4th burn is scheduled to start around 12:40 a.m. EDT, or 04:40 GMT. Separation of the AsiaSat 5 spacecraft is scheduled to follow the 4th burn completion by about 15 minutes.

August 11, 2009

As the Breeze M upper stage of our Proton M rocket continues its climb into space with the AsiaSat 5 satellite, we have received confirmation that the 2nd burn of the upper stage occurred and shut down as scheduled. The next events are scheduled for about 2 hours from now. The Breeze M upper stage will ignite for a 3rd time and burn for approximately 17 minutes; after that the additional propellant tank will be jettisoned. All this will happen in a span of almost 20 minutes while the vehicle is again out of range of a ground station. We should reacquire the signal shortly thereafter.

August 11, 2009

We have received confirmation of completion of the first burn. The vehicle is now scheduled to be out of range for about an hour, after which we will hear confirmation of the second burn.

August 11, 2009

We had a successful liftoff about 10 minutes ago of our ILS Proton Breeze M rocket, which is carrying the AsiaSat 5 satellite. The three stages of the Proton vehicle have performed as planned, and it is up to the Breeze M upper stage to complete the mission. The upper stage has begun its first burn, which is scheduled to last around 7 minutes.

August 11, 2009

We have Liftoff! of the ILS Proton Breeze M rocket and the AsiaSat 5 satellite

August 11, 2009

[b]02 August - 08 August[/b] [b]AU Move to Hall 111 – 2 August 2009[/b] The Space Head Unit (SHU) also referred to as the Ascent Unit (AU) was moved today to Hall 111 for the integration the Proton M Launch Vehicle (LV). Once again we watched as the AU was carefully lifted and then lowered to the transport railcar. Just as before, the operation was performed with precision and careful attention to detail by a small army of KhSC specialists. Environmental conditioning of the AU was monitored and verified to ensure the proper climate for the AU was met before moving the move. All conditions were perfect for the move as the locomotive pulled in and connected to the transport railcar. A sigh of relief could be felt as the train slowly moved away with the AU. Next stop the Integration Hall (Hall 111). [b]Integration to the LV[/b] The Kosmotrans locomotive tugged steadily and true throughout the very short trip to the Integration Hall. Another small army of KhSC specialists eagerly waited as the AU arrived. No time was wasted in moving the it from the transportation railcar. Lifting of the AU was executed with the same precision that we witnessed in Hall 101. Once the AU is connected to the LV, it along with the LV are referred to as the Integrated Launch Vehicle (ILV). The ILV consists of four stages including the Breeze M, and will carry the AsiaSat 5 spacecraft (SC) into orbit. Move from Hall 111 to the Breeze M Fueling Shelter - 6 & 7 August 2009 After exhaustive mechanical and electrical testing, the ILV was hoisted high by KhSC crane operators and carefully placed on the transporter railcar. It is a really impressive sight to see the entire ILV lifted and suspended mid-air before it is lowered to the transporter. This process is critical and the number of personnel allowed in Hall 111 during the operation is strictly limited to those personnel directly involved in the operation. We were fortunate enough to be able to witness this process from the cameras located in the Security Office. The ILV began its short journey to the Breeze M Fueling Shelter to complete the final fueling processes of the Breeze M Upper Stage. As with SC fueling, the Breeze M fueling also is a two day process. During this time, all of the launch campaign personnel except a skeleton crew of Pinkerton’s and ILS spend two days away from the processing facility. For some, the time off is spent in town for sightseeing, touring Gagarin’s museum, and picking up some goodies for the people back at home. Others use the hours for playing video games, reading, watching DVD’s or taking bike rides around the compound. A few card games are thrown into the mix with some coming out winners and other’s ending a few rubles shorter than what they started with. [b]Breeze M Post Fueling BBQ - 7 August 2009[/b] To celebrate the successful Breeze M fueling operation, and the State Commission meetings authorization to rollout to the launch pad, ILS hosted a BBQ for all. Preparation time is imperative for a great BBQ so while some colleagues were preparing for and participating in the State Commission meeting, others were hard at work, marinating tri-tip and ribs, putting together handmade hamburgers, and making sure the beverages were on ice along with stoking the grills for our fiesta that started at 1800. [b]Rollout to the Launch Pad – 8 August 2009[/b] Traditionally, the ILV moves to the launch pad at 0630. This tradition dates back to the exact time that the Soyuz rocket that carried Yuri Gagarin; the first man in space, made its historic journey to the launch pad. Tradition was upheld and the train carrying the ILV and AsiaSat 5 SC departed exactly at 0630 on its two and a half hour journey to launch pad 39. The rather uneventful train trip out to the pad could be watched from various points around Area 95 and drew the biggest crowd of onlookers we have seen so far. Everyone who wanted to attend was permitted on the pad deck to watch the incredible sight as the assembled ILV rolled horizontally into position next to the flame bucket. Then it was hydraulically lifted to its vertical launch position. Talk about a photo opportunity. Pictures, videos, Russian and Americans alike... everyone tried to capture it in as many ways as they could. To commemorate this exciting day, team photos were taken with the ILV of course standing tall and proud in the background. In addition to team photos, it is also when the program directors, launch vehicle managers, and customers film their spots to be added into the broadcast on launch day. The anticipation continues to build as we move from the daily schedule to what is referred to as the 7/701 script. This is the official countdown schedule that will bring us to launch day!

August 5, 2009

[b]26 July to 2 August[/b] [b]What a week![/b] This week saw many different stages of testing, processing and integration. Whether it was the last glimpse of the AsiaSat 5 SC before encapsulation, signing of the fairing, the move to Hall 111 or the integration of the Space Head Unit (SHU) to the Proton Launch Vehicle (LV), each phase left echoes of the hard work of many. With welcomed sighs of relief, the next phase of processing is underway. Now that the Orbital Unit (OU) has been encapsulated within the Payload Fairing (PLF) it is referred to as the SHU or Ascent Unit (AU). [b]Payload Fairing Signing[/b] The signing of the payload fairing is an opportunity for all of those personnel that have worked on this program to say their goodbyes, hellos and well wishes on the fairing logos to teammates and loved ones. These messages are not taken for granted. Many contemplate their message(s), intensely, before signing the fairing. Numerous signatures and messages proudly adorn the logos …little notes to loved ones, both here in the present and to those who have moved on, messages to their team members, well wishes for a successful flight, simple signatures (I was here and proudly contributed to this program). These messages are prominently displayed for all on the fairing. The fairing is one of the more notable features of the LV. As every piece of the rocket has its function, the fairings job is to house and protect the SC on its voyage to orbit. A more appropriate place to display the logos of the program and pride of the team would never be found. Along with the “fun” stuff (PLF Signing), all parties worked to the rigorous schedule to ensure the safety and success of the mission. Just as before, every step was meticulously noted and logged accordingly. [b]SC Move to the LV Integration Hall[/b] Once again, precision and finely coordinated efforts are evident as the AU was prepared for movement to the next processing phase. The carefully choreographed movement of the AU was an impressive sight. As the train pulled away with the AsiaSat 5 SC a sigh of relief could be felt. The next phase in processing is the integration of the AU to the Proton Launch Vehicle (LV). Cultural diversity is one of the program’s strengths. I have always been amazed that without regard to the number of different languages spoken or the unique cultural differences here, we are one very large inseparable team working to ensure the success of this mission. The professionalism and willingness to get the job done and done right is inspiring. One team, one mission…successful launch and deployment of the AsiaSat 5 SC. [b]Yurt Alert – 1 August[/b] For a special dinner, the head of Areas 95 arranged to have 10 people to travel to a traditional yurt on Saturday. A local camel and cattle rancher hosted the event, in which traditional Kazakh foods and beverages were sampled in a hand-made yurt which the family uses for most of the year. The host and his family were warm and inviting, and the children were wearing their finest clothes complete with AsiaSat 5 Launch Campaign patches and pins. As an extra treat, rides on the host’s camel and horse were provided, and all had a fantastic time. To top it all off, the guest of honor, our AsiaSat customer was provided the most coveted of all, a boiled goat’s head! [b]Mini BBQ – 2 August[/b] After the SC was moved to LV Integration Hall, ILS provided the team with a little time to relax with a mini BBQ at the Fili Hotel pavilions. The mood was tranquil and members from each team pitched in to help prep and cook the food. Tri-tipped beef, chicken, homemade hamburgers, sausage links and cold beer were served at 1800 hours under a sky canvassed with abundantly large white puffy clouds. A cool breeze blew gently as we relaxed, ate, listened to music and enjoyed each other’s company.

July 29, 2009

[b]Post Fueling Party – Hawaiian Style[/b] Space Systems/Loral has outdone themselves again! While their ever so efficient propellant team was hard at work ensuring that the AsiaSat 5 spacecraft was being properly fueled and of course making sure all safety precautions were being followed, the other team members were preparing a Hawaiian style BBQ. Loving care was poured into every detail right down to slow cooking the pork ribs for four hours before their descent into "Mount Santa Maria." Yes, these tender morsels had the power to satisfy even the angriest of the volcano Gods. The pulled pork was tender and flew from the containers almost as fast as it hit the serving area. The transformation from a desert backdrop to a Tiki pavilion was most impressive. Swathed in hanging fishes, Hawaiian maidens, paper lanterns with traditional Hawaiian music playing in the background, the scene was complete and the luau could begin. The only thing missing was the smell of ocean in the air and waves lapping at our feet! Now what would a Hawaiian luau be without the Hawaiian shirts and lei’s. No disappointment here as the party-goers were clad in their best Hawaiian garb. Hawaiian shirts have definitely made it to the top of Baikonur summer attire and would be a welcomed addition to your wardrobe for summers here. To top the luau off nicely, the wayward camel returned from his walk-about, so in between Hawaiian dances, and conversations, personnel were able to climb aboard the two-humped camel for a quick tour of the area outside the Fili Hotel. This was a fantastic way to wind down from very intense days of fueling, recalibrate the body and soul and to start our Joint Operations schedule with a stress-free mind! [b]Joint Operations – 29 July 2009[/b] Joint Operation began today in Hall 101 with the movement of the Asiasat 5 SC. SS/L personnel moved the SC carefully from its home for the last two weeks in Hall 103A to Hall 101 to begin preparations for mating to the Payload Adapter (PLA) and then onto the Breeze M upper stage. After the SC was moved to Hall 101 it began its slow and careful journey to the PLA. The entire effort was a well orchestrated event with the cast of many performing every task to precise specifications all the while keeping the safety of SC and personnel involved in the operations at the forefront of each step. With the move of the SC to the PLA complete, RUAG personnel began their clampband operations to mate the SC to the PLA. The conclusion of the SC/PLA mating makes the three pieces of hardware the Orbital Unit (OU). The OU will be hoisted onto the Breeze M Upper Stage (US) and encapsulated, but not before a series of exhaustive electrical and mechanical testing is complete. Commencement of Joint Operations is one of the longer days of the campaign and due to the critical nature of each operation. Every detail must be carefully checked and rechecked before the next step in the process begins. These operations in their entirety are very impressive to watch but the most impressive thing is the incredible attention to detail and great care executed in each step.

July 27, 2009

[b]BBQ – Spanish-Style[/b] Sundays are fast becoming the day to BBQ. This past Sunday, Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) out did themselves with a full on Spanish-style BBQ. Preparation was the key to this outstanding soiree! Bright and early Sunday morning, the Fili kitchen was a buzz with slicing, dicing, chopping and frying. Raul was in charge of the guacamole, salsa, carnesada and marinades, Carlos was our tortilla guru, Keryn made the Fried Bread. Then, of course, there is Adam… is there anything this man cannot do? Adam made sure everything else was put out, set up, in place and fired up (including the margarita machine). After 8 hours of preparation time our BBQ began in earnest complete with DJ Nor and his sound system! Great team work pulled off a sensational, food made from scratch, sumptuous BBQ that left everyone wanting more. Too much food and not enough room in the stomach! [b]Hall 111 Tour and Launch Pad Familiarization Tour[/b] One of the cool things you get to experience while on launch campaign in Baikonur is seeing the launch vehicle (LV) for the first time in Hall 111. This week in addition to SS/L SC stand-alone operations, KhSC Breeze M fueling preparations, payload fairing (PLF) and payload adapter (PLA) operations, KhSC made time to take members of the AsiaSat 5 launch campaign team on a brief tour of Hall 111. Not to miss out on an opportunity, the customer also joined the Hall 111 contingency for the chance to see the Proton LV up close. A great photo op was had by all! A familiarization tour of the launch pad, Mobile Service Tower (MST) and the vault also took place for those members of the SS/L team who are experiencing Baikonur for the first time. [b]Soyuz Launch - 24 July 2009[/b] [i]Fridays[/i] – you got to love 'em! In the “regular” world one finishes work on a Friday, packs up and heads off for two days of downtime. Here in Baikonur we all work to a schedule which has been planned out months in advance. A planned break in our schedule allowed this Friday to be different; most of the team got the opportunity to watch the launch of an unmanned Soyuz rocket. At 1515 those of us lucky enough to take the planned break, boarded our big blue bus and took a 40 minute ride to the Gagarin’s Start launch pad. Upon arrival at the launch pad viewing area, we clambered out into the sweltering summer heat to try and get a prime position with the Kazakhstan and Russian locals for photos and viewing of the launch. At 1756 the Soyuz took off into a brilliant blue sky filled with wisps of white clouds. Our amateur and professional shutter bugs couldn’t have asked for a better backdrop. ……[url=]see photos in the photo gallery![/url] No matter how long one has been in the rocket launching business, watching a rocket being launched is like being a kid in a candy shop….absolutely breath taking , even more so when you are able to view the launch up close. This week, the propulsion team has spent the days working to prepare the facility and themselves for Oxidizer and Fuel loading. KhSC has been diligently running the planned electrical tests on the Launch Vehicle and preparing the Upper Stage Breeze M for their high pressure fueling. [b]Oxidizer Load[/b] The AsiaSat 5 SC operates with a bi-propellant propulsion system. This means that in the vast emptiness of space, it carries two sets of chemicals that react exothermically (hot and explosively!). When combined a hypergolic reaction produces the thrust necessary to provide final drift orbital insertion. The first commodity loaded on day one of SC fueling was the oxidizer. Day one of fueling was a success! The fueling operations required that all non-essential personnel evacuate Building 92A-50. After a Safety walk-thru of Hall 103A was completed, an agreement was reached that all systems were go for SC loading. A very professional and efficient SS/L propellant team put on their SCAPE suits and loaded the oxidizer into the SC. All non-essential personnel got a day off, which included trips into Baikonur town for some souvenir shopping (a must!) and for others some much needed rest and relaxation. [b]Biscuits and Gravy!![/b] Those willing to awake early Sunday morning, were treated to a Southern style breakfast put on by our friends and colleagues, the Pinkertons. Preparations for the Sunday breakfast began the night before with three long hours in the kitchen making biscuits, learning to speak Russian with the kitchen staff and preparing the most excellent home-made sausage gravy. The hard work and preparations for the next morning’s breakfast really paid off when attendees made room for their second and third helpings of hand-made biscuits and gravy with eggs made to order, bacon, coffee and tea on tap, and freshly squeezed orange juice (for those on a health kick!). [b]MIA Camel[/b] Has anyone spotted a two humped camel? Yesterday afternoon the team was looking forward to experiencing a camel ride ….unfortunately, the camel must have got wind of what was going on and decided to take a short holiday enroute to his commitment at the Fili Hotel. We have been told, that the camel riding event is postponed until the camel has finished his walk-about. The few of us who decide to stay at the Fili instead of going into Baikonur town, were delighted to be visited by “Gorsh’ka’ (Joe) our resident camel, who stopped by the Fili Hotel for lunch and a drink. Joe was content to graze on the forna outside our hotel fence. Some of the guys thought he might be thirsty so we helped to quench Joe’s thirst with buckets of water from the hotel. Two mega buckets of water later, Joe meandered off looking extremely content and hydrated! [b]Fuel Load Ops Complete[/b] Because the propellant loading is a hazardous operation, the building was cleared again and the rest of the non-essential personnel spent the day preparing for our Hawaiian BBQ (Luau) relaxing, traveling into town to shop and eat shashlik (a very tasty Russian ka-bob). All went smoothly and according to plan as the SS/L propellant team loaded the hydrazine fuel into the SC. This operation, which took approximately 3 hours, is the second half of the propellant load and marks the completion of the propellant loading phase of SC. Big Kudos to the propellant loading team for their professional and precise execution of the hydrazine loading phase. We will continue with some post-fueling testing of the SC, flight closeouts of all thermal blankets and removal of some Remove Before Flight (RBF) items over the next several days. Joint Operations commence on Wednesday 29 July.

July 17, 2009

[b]Breeze M Arrival[/b] Shipped via Antonov direct from Moscow to Yubileiny airfield our Breeze M was transferred on to a flat bed semi-tractor trailer, strapped down and took a slow, methodical ride to our processing facility 92A-50 on 15 July 2009. Upon arrival, the Breeze M was unpacked in Hall 101 and placed on its stand. During stand alone operations KhSC personnel are preparing the Breeze M for mating with the PLA and SC. [b]Standalone Operations[/b] The SS/Loral SC contractor has been busy testing the AsiaSat5 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 the SC is ready, load propellants and configure the SC for launch. After all these steps are done and the SC is ready to go for launch, we start "joint operations" where the SC is integrated with the Proton LV. Right now, they are in the process of verifying that the SC is ready before we proceed to the next step: loading propellants into the tanks inside the SC. In parallel, the SC propellant loading team has been busy with all their checkouts preparations.

July 13, 2009

[b]SC/GSE Arrival[/b] What a day!!! The AsiaSat 5 spacecraft (SC) arrived safely from Palo Alto. We had planned on a 12:00 PM arrival time, but were extremely pleased to have the plane land 45 minutes early. Touch down at 11:15 AM. After clearing customs, the team went into high gear operation mode to remove the SC container and support equipment from the airplane. Unlike most typical off-loads which have the SC container being removed from the front of the airplane, the AsiaSat 5 SC was offloaded from the rear of the plane. With highly orchestrated precision, the collective teams unloaded the airplane and had the SC and additional equipment secured to the train in a record three hours. The SC train consists of a locomotive, a car which holds the passengers (affectionately known as the "Doghouse"), a gage car, flatbeds with the SC equipment, a thermal rail car supplying conditioned air to the SC, and finally the SC itself mounted to a flatbed rail car. The gage car is interesting to note because it is an outline of the SC container. If this gage car happens to hit anything along the way, we would immediately stop because this means that the SC container would also hit if we kept moving. We always pre-verify the track with the gage car months before the SC arrives (to ensure compatibility), the day before arrival, and the day of arrival so we are triply sure that nothing will go awry! After a five-hour trip from the airstrip to the arrival at the processing facility, the SC container and the associated equipment were offloaded and moved into the various areas of the facility in which they will be needed. Next step: Unpacking the SC and performing a fitcheck. [b]Unpack and Fitcheck[/b] On the afternoon of July 10, 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 basketball game if so inclined! The SC container was off-loaded at 21:00 and placed on the floor of the hall, and all the associated equipment was placed in the areas needed to support the unpacking and testing of the SC. This entire operation was finished by 22:45 on July 10 – making for a very long 12 hour day. The SC is well protected within the container, so we left it there overnight. Early the next morning, the riggers came in and started the process of removing the SC from its container. This entails removing the lid, rotating the SC from horizontal to vertical, and using the crane to lift it off its supports. While this was going on, the Khrunichev specialists were preparing the adapter system on its stand in Hall 101 for a fitcheck. To ensure that there are no problems with the mechanical interface of the SC with the adapter and electrical cabling, we perform this short fitcheck before the SC processing and fueling hall, known as Hall 103A. After a successful fitcheck, the SC was moved to a portable dolly and rolled into Hall 103A - its home for the next 14 days. Next step - SC stand alone testing and propellant load preparations! [b]Fili BBQ[/b] After putting in the hard yards over the last few days, SS Loral put on the first official BBQ of the campaign. We gathered the troops and fired up the grill: tri-tip and ribs with accompanying side dishes and topping it off with the famous Baikonur Honeycake for dessert. We never really know how many expert grillers we have on our campaign until the Pinkerton and SS Loral personnel share their proven grilling methods. We discovered that there is no language barrier when it comes to grilling. The weather was perfect for our informal courtyard gathering at Baikonur's Fili Hotel. ILS, SS Loral, Khrunichev, AsiaSat, Pinkertons and our staff from Altek spent an enjoyable evening relaxing, dining and anticipating the upcoming spacecraft operations. Short of having this BBQ by the side of a pool, it felt like home.

July 10, 2009

[b]Proton Arrival[/b] Due to the integrity, diligence and hardwork of all parties involved, the AsiaSat5 campaign is coming to fruition in a record breaking five month period. Having said this, the proton arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome prior to the AsiaSat5 early team and is being processed in Hall 111 as we prepare for the SC arrival. [b]Early Team Arrival[/b] After departing a very cool Moscow, the summer heat and warm breeze blowing across the Yubileiny runway was a welcome change as the Asiasat 5 Launch Campaign team all filed through the customs house, stowed our luggage in the under carriage of the big blue bus and made our way towards Area 95 which we will call home for the next several weeks. The bus ride was rather uneventful - the seasoned launch campaign professionals made use of the down time by taking a snooze in an effort to catch up on some sleep and from crossing a plethora of time zones. The “newbie’s” (of which we have quite a few this campaign) were glued to the windows staring in wonder at the endless miles of Kazakh steppes earth, dotted with patches of green. No herds of two hump camels, or wild horses to view on this bus ride. After clambering off the bus and locating our rooms at the Fili Hotel, we sauntered over to the Proton Club where we had our Safety and Security Briefings. In order for the campaign to run smoothly, we have to have a few rules, regulations and guidelines in place. Once the formalities were taken care of, there was enough time for a late dinner before calling it a day.

July 10, 2009

Welcome to the fourth ILS Proton launch campaign for 2009 – the launch of the Space Systems/Loral-built, AsiaSat 5 satellite for Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Ltd (AsiaSat). Follow along with the mission team as they prepare for the launch.

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