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February 11, 2010

We have had a successful mission with the Proton M Breeze M rocket, carrying the Intelsat 16 satellite built by Orbital Sciences Corporation. We have had confirmation that the satellite separated from the vehicle on schedule at 5:14 a.m. EST, or 10:14 GMT, 9 hours and 34 minutes after liftoff. Everything occurred as planned with ignition, shutdown and separation of the Proton’s first three stages. Then the Breeze M upper stage with the satellite continued the mission, igniting four times, and then releasing the satellite into near-stationary orbit.

February 11, 2010

We have confirmed that the Breeze M upper stage has successfully completed its 3rd burn, as well as jettisoning its auxiliary 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 4:50 a.m. EST, or 09:50 GMT. Separation of the Intelsat 16 spacecraft is scheduled to follow the 4th burn completion by about 14 minutes.

February 11, 2010

As the Breeze M upper stage of our Proton M rocket continues its climb into space with the Intelsat 16 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 20 minutes; after that the auxiliary propellant tank will be jettisoned. All this will happen while the vehicle is again out of range of a ground station. We should reacquire the vehicle shortly after the APT is jettisoned.

February 11, 2010

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.

February 11, 2010

We had a successful liftoff about 15 minutes ago of our Proton M Breeze M rocket, which is carrying the Intelsat 16 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 4 minutes.

February 11, 2010

We have liftoff! of the Proton M Breeze M rocket and the Intelsat 16 satellite.

February 2, 2010

One of the least technical operations that we perform here is the signing of the PLF by the entire launch team. But it is fun to watch the team members take turns climbing up on to the catwalk, putting their personal touches on the fairing logos and then climbing back down. The biggest decisions are what to write, and who to dedicate the launch to: parents, children and loved ones of all sorts are named on the fairing as a tribute to them from the launch team members. It's a great photo opportunity for the team. It is also one of the last things we do prior to mating the AU to the launch vehicle. It has been a long road for the Orbital Science's team and their satellite, and it is at this point that they physically hand it over to the capable hands of our Russian teammates from Khrunichev.

February 2, 2010

It is time to say goodbye to the SC, visually anyway, as the PLF is ready to be installed. With the SC horizontal and hovering above a rail track, the bottom half of the fairing is situated on a rail car below. It sits in a cradle and is hand cranked into position under the SC. Once that is in place, the upper half of the fairing is hoisted up by crane and positioned above the prone SC and lowered to mate with the bottom PLF half. Under the eyes of the watchful team from Orbital, KhSC's operations were successful and the Intelsat-16 SC was officially encapsulated in preparation for its ride into orbit. This newly assembled configuration is now called the ascent unit (AU). Once the two PLF halves are secured, the team will spend two days performing electrical tests and verifying that, although encapsulated, it is still possible to communicate with the SC. The term "team" certainly applies in this case, as a veritable plethora of activities are ongoing while the Orbital folks and the Khrunichev teams work together performing pre-launch testing. Time now to mate the AU to the Proton launch vehicle! The fun continues...

February 2, 2010

After a successful mating of the SC-PLA to the Breeze M, the sum of which is referred to as the Orbital Unit (OU), there was very little time to admire the handiwork as we moved right into payload fairing (PLF) encapsulation the very next morning. The first order of business required for encapsulation is the need to have the SC in a horizontal position. This is one of the more harrowing operations to witness. Here is the OU stack, SC fully loaded with propellant, coupled with the Breeze M upper stage, which is mounted to the tilt-over fixture. That is a whole lot of inches and a whole lot of pounds, supported only by the mounting base, and we have to rotate it from vertical to horizontal in order to install the payload fairing. No matter how many times one observes this operation, one cannot help but watch and comment that it is just not supposed to look like this. It can be quite nerve-wracking during these 30 minutes. It seems to get very quiet in Hall 101 while everything is underway, but the method once again proved true. The SC, Breeze M, PLA system and moved to horizontal just as they were supposed to do. It really is a spectacular sight to see.

February 2, 2010

Now that SC stand-alone testing is complete, we are starting the phase known as Joint Operations. This is when the SC is mechanically and electrically mated to the Launch Vehicle hardware. To put it simply, this is when we start making the little pieces into one big piece! The first step was to mate the SC to the payload adapter system (PLA) - a conical structure that attaches to the bottom of the SC. Next, we took the SC-PLA combo and mated it to the top of the Breeze M upper stage. We successfully completed these steps today after about 17 hours of work, taking into account all the testing and mechanical and electrical checks that had to occur. Next, the SC-PLA-Breeze M stack will be rotated from vertical to horizontal and the payload fairing installed. The combination of all these pieces into a single unit is known as the Orbital Unit (OU). The SC and launch vehicle will remain in a horizontal orientation until we move the whole integrated launch vehicle to launch pad on L-5 days. This differs from U.S. launch vehicle processing, in that the majority of assembly in those systems occurs horizontally. Quite a difference if you are not used to it!

February 1, 2010

The "Consent to Load Propellants" meeting was held between Intelsat and Orbital Sciences. It's a critical step, in that it allows the load of highly hazardous chemicals into the tanks on board the SC. It's not an operation that you want to repeat or -- in the worst case -- reverse! After this review was completed, we held our Propellant Loading meeting where we reviewed the readiness of all systems, organizations, processes and procedures for loading SC propellants. Everyone agreed that we were ready, and the appropriate certificates were issued and presented to the KhSC program team. Orbital's propellant team then loaded the hydrazine fuel onto the SC (no oxidizer will be used for this mission, as the Intelsat-16 SC will be injected directly into near-GSO). This operation, which took approximately eight hours, marks the completion of the propellant loading phase of SC preps. Kudos to the Intelsat and Orbital teams for an excellent operation! It all went smoothly and according to plan. Because the propellant loading is a hazardous operation, the building was cleared and the rest of the non-essential personnel spent the day relaxing. 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 until the start of Joint Operations.

February 1, 2010

Orbital's specialists have verified that the SC is completely healthy, and our Intelsat customer provided a final review of all the stand-alone electrical testing results and pronounced the SC ready to proceed. Khrunichev specialists prepared the payload adapter (PLA) system on its stand in Hall 103A, where the SC was tested, for a "touch and go" 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. After a successful fitcheck, the SC was moved to its fueling stand for the next step: loading propellants into the tanks inside the SC. In parallel with the SC electrical testing, the SC propellant loading team has been busy with all their checkouts and preparations. Everything is proceeding per the plan - a result of the last 12 months of preparation by Intelsat, Orbital Sciences, ILS and KhSC. Next step - SC propellant load

February 1, 2010

On the night of 11 January, 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 all the associated equipment was placed in the areas needed to support the unpacking and testing of the SC. 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 life it off its supports. The SC was moved to a portable dolly and rolled into Hall 103A - its home for the next 17 days. The Orbital Sciences team then got busy testing the Intelsat-16 SC in what is known as stand-alone operations. This is the time in the beginning of the launch campaign when the SC contractor work alone to test and verify that the SC is healthy, load propellants and configure the SC for launch. After all these steps are done and the SC is completely ready to go for launch, we start "joint operations" where the SC is integrated with the Proton LV. Right now, Orbital's specialists are in the process of verifying that the SC is completely healthy before we proceed to the next step: a "touch and go" fitcheck.

January 22, 2010

Our resident weather man, determined that Thursday, January 14 would be a perfect day for a barbecue. The pavilion in front of the Fili was prepared with protection from the cold and wind, and then the fire pit was filled with huge logs of wood. Soon a roaring fire was available to warm your hands over. Volunteers from Pinkerton manned the Santa Maria grill for the most succulent beef tenderloin in all of Kazakhstan. Khrunichev was invited, the music was playing, and a good time was enjoyed by all. In addition, we surprised our newly promoted ILS Mission Manager with a huge cake! Way to go!

January 22, 2010

On a cool, crisp, sunny morning, Intelsat 16 team members eagerly boarded the bus that would take them to Yubileiny Airport to await the arrival of the Antonov, which was carrying the precious Intelsat 16 spacecraft. After a picture-perfect landing, the Antonov taxied into position for unloading, and the offload began immediately. Khrunichev worked with amazing efficiency. All people, supplies and the spacecraft (of course) were unloaded without incident in just a few hours. The spacecraft was moved to a rail car, which arrived at the processing hall around 10:00 that night. Many ILS and Orbital team members worked into the early hours of the morning to ensure safe transfer of the spacecraft into the processing hall. All spacecraft operations are proceeding nominally.

January 21, 2010

The first ILS launch campaign of 2010 is underway. The Early Team set out on the 6th of January from Virginia to kick off the launch of the Intelsat 16 commercial communications satellite from Baikonur. After a long trip to Moscow, and with an early flight to Baikonur scheduled for the next morning, we all called it an early night. After breakfast, a drive through unusually deserted Moscow streets (it was the day after Russian Orthodox Christmas), and a very uneventful charter flight on a Tupolev Tu-134, the Early Team arrived safe and sound at Yubileiny Airfield on the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Then it was a 45 minute bus ride to the hotel (our home away from home for the next month), the mandatory Safety and Security Arrival briefing, dinner, and another early night for many of the team members. The next few days consisted of office setup and facility acceptance checks as we prepared for the arrival of the Intelsat 16 spacecraft.

January 12, 2010

Welcome to the first ILS Proton launch campaign for 2010 – the launch of the Orbital Sciences Corporation-built, Intelsat 16 satellite for Intelsat. Follow along with the mission team as they prepare for the launch.

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