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May 18, 2012

We have had a successful mission with the ILS Proton Rocket carrying the Nimiq 6 satellite built by Space Systems/Loral. We have had confirmation that the Nimiq 6 satellite separated from the vehicle on schedule at 00:26 a.m. EDT, or 04:26 GMT, 9 hours and 14 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 five times, and then releasing the satellite into transfer orbit.

May 17, 2012

We have confirmed that the Breeze M upper stage has successfully completed its 3rd & 4th burns, 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 5th burn is scheduled to start around 00:03 a.m. EDT, or 04:03 GMT. Separation of the Nimiq 6 spacecraft is scheduled to follow the 5th burn completion by about 13 minutes.

May 17, 2012

As the Breeze M upper stage of our Proton M rocket continues its climb into space with the Nimiq 6 satellites onboard, 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 and a half hours from now. The Breeze M upper stage will ignite for a 3rd time and burn for approximately 15 minutes; after that the additional propellant tank will be jettisoned, and the 4th burn will start and complete. 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 vehicle shortly after the 4th burn ends.

May 17, 2012

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.

May 17, 2012

We had a successful liftoff about 11 minutes ago of our Proton M Breeze M rocket, which is carrying the Nimiq 6 satellite on board. 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 5 minutes.

May 17, 2012

We have liftoff! of the Proton M Breeze M rocket and the Nimiq 6 satellite.

May 14, 2012

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 Nimiq 6 ILV on its trip to Launch Pad 24.

It is the Russian tradition for the locomotive to start its journey at 6:30 a.m. local time. Thus, we were all out to see the convoy off at 6:30 that morning for the 2 and a half-hour journey to its new home on pad 24.  At about 9 a.m. everyone who wanted to attend was permitted on the pad deck to watch the incredible sight of the assembled ILV being rolled horizontally into position.  Then the ILV was hydraulically rotated to its vertical launch position.  This process is called verticalization.  Talk about a photo opportunity!

The anticipation continues to build as we started the official countdown schedule that will bring us to launch day!

May 9, 2012

It is May 9, and this is one of the most memorialized days in Russian History.  It is Victory Day, the day that marks the end of World War II.  Just as Memorial Day is in America, this is a day of celebrating the veterans of the war, in particular, the many who were lost.  It was an honor to be a part of this day with our Russian friends and colleagues.

For those who don’t know, at the entrance to Area 95 in Baikonur is The World War II Monument, depicting a soldier pointing to the west, the direction of the major Russian allies during the war.  In the late afternoon, nearly the entire campaign team gathered for a walk (a parade) from the Fili hotel down to the Monument.  It is customary to lay flowers at the monument as a memorial, and this parade was no different.  Led by the Director of Operations in Baikonur, we walked to the monument and laid down our floral offerings.  Many people made this same trip over the course of the day, as people were coming and going over the entire afternoon.  It was quite an emotional event for many of the parade goers.

After many shouts of “sprahzneecoom” (victory congratulations), we were back to the Cosmos hotel for a Victory Day celebration at the pavilion.  Short of having a swimming pool and fireworks, it was as if we were back home.  The grill was hot for hours and everyone enjoyed the event.

May 8, 2012

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 signing the payload fairing.  The biggest decision is what to write and to whom one dedicates his or her message. Traditionally designees are parents, children and loved ones. All of the names on the fairing are, in essence, tributes from the launch team members.

Once the signing festivities completed, the rail transporter was positioned in Hall 101 so the ascent unit (AU) 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.  Hall 111 houses the complete Proton M/Breeze M rocket, which will take the Nimiq 6 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.


May 7, 2012

A great day to head to the 8th floor of the Mobile Service Tower as we conducted a Radio Frequency check between the Control room and Tower simulating the spacecraft. This is essentially a detailed safety exercise and also ensures that data is not compromised.

There was also a couple of nesting hawks taking turns flying off on food runs, while looking at us as if we were were intrusive squatters.

May 1, 2012

The standalone operations have quickly drawn to a close. The propellant (prop) team has methodically and flawlessly completed the critical operation of fueling the spacecraft (SC). This milestone also signifies the preparations for joint operations. All SC electrical testing was completed, and final pre-launch closeouts and inspections are underway. The spacecraft was then lifted onto the transporter for the short journey from Hall 103A to Hall 101.

Meanwhile, on the Khrunichev side of things, the Breeze M has returned to Building 92A-50 after a couple of days at area 31 for high pressure fuel loading. It will be installed on the tilt over fixture in preparation for the installation of the SC. The payload adapter sits waiting, as does the separation system.  Our friends from RUAG arrived and are  preparing for installation of the  separation system.  The launch vehicle sits in Hall 111 undergoing its final preparations and the payload fairing is ready for installation as well.  

And in concurrence with launch campaign tradition, the prop load was followed by a gathering of all the propellant specialists from both teams for a post load celebration BBQ.

April 16, 2012

The Nimiq 6 spacecraft (SC) arrived at Yubileiny Airfield on schedule on 16 April.  It was a sunny and a bit chilly day, but operations at the airfield were completed and the SC arrived in Hall 103A safely.  The satellite is healthy and currently in standalone operations in Hall 103A, while the launch vehicle is sitting in Hall 111 undergoing final checkouts. After this first hectic week of preparations and equipment moves, everyone is settling in to the choreographed schedule of launch operations.

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