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November 14, 2010

We have had a successful mission with the Proton M Breeze M rocket, carrying the SkyTerra 1 satellite built by Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems. We have had confirmation that the satellite separated from the vehicle on schedule at 9:43 p.m. EST, or 02:43 UTC, 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.

November 14, 2010

We have confirmed that the Breeze M upper stage has successfully completed its 3rd and 4th 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 5th burn is scheduled to start around 9:22 p.m. EST, or 02:22 GMT. Separation of the SkyTerra 1 spacecraft is scheduled to follow the 5th burn completion by about 14 minutes.

November 14, 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.

November 14, 2010

We had a successful liftoff about 11 minutes ago of our Proton M Breeze M rocket, which is carrying the SkyTerra 1 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.

November 14, 2010

We have liftoff! of the Proton M Breeze M rocket and the SkyTerra 1 satellite.

November 5, 2010

Joint operations continues right on schedule, as Hall 101 operations continue on full swing. Following the mate of the SC to the Breeze M, all eyes were on the KhSC tilter unit, as the orbital unit was rotated to the horizontal position. This is always an exciting scene as thousands of pounds of flight hardware are moved into a cantilevered position. This is one of the very unique things about a Proton launch vehicle assembly process. The hardware is assembled horizontally.

Following the rotation to horizontal, both Boeing and KhSC performed a variety of electrical verification tests and RF checks. And as the title of this entry states, “when a schedule comes together”, it was no better displayed than on day 1, as testing was completed at 23:49, 11 minutes ahead of schedule.

This positioning of the orbital unit also allows for relatively easy installation of the payload fairing. Installed in two parts, the bottom half is rolled under the assembly and the upper half is lifted over. It also makes access to the fairing logo just a ladder climb away. And with sharpies in hand, smiles on faces and cameras aimed properly, all team members climbed and signed.

After some final closeout operations by KhSC, the assembly was transported to Hall 111 for mating to the rest of the launch vehicle. The assembly was moved out of Hall 101 at 10:00 am on 5 November: RIGHT on schedule. Breeze M fueling is only a few days away.

We have made it to single digits: L – 9 days and counting.

November 5, 2010

And it may be Baikonur, but the Polyot kitchen and dining hall were filled with the aromas of Italy…if only for one night. We took over the kitchen for a night and treated the team to Italian Night at the Cosmodrome. And while it was only frozen pizzas, it was all homemade spaghetti and meatballs, with a little East Coast and West Coast flare. Add some garlic bread and a tossed salad and you might have thought you were in Tuscany. Fortunately, there were no volunteers to sing “Areviderci Roma”.

And while Italian night broke up the week, we all realized it had been almost 5 days since our last cookout. So, we re-secured the wind tarp around the pavilion, fired up the grill, cooked up about 5 gallons of homemade Fili chili, lit a bonfire and had an outstanding burgers, brats and chicken breasts BBQ. Needless to say, no one went home hungry last night, again.

Not a bad encore.

November 2, 2010

With all of the accomplishments of the past week or so, and of course the American celebration of Halloween, we sure had a couple of good reasons to BBQ. Throw in the fact that the weather certainly has cooperated, and everyone has taken the opportunity to enjoy every aspect of a launch campaign.

We started the week with an outstanding steak and rib cookout, as an official welcome for all parties involved in the campaign. A couple of the Boeing and ILS folks traded their SC hats for chef’s hats. Boy, do something right once, and you will get picked to do it every time. These same chefs were elected to do it all over again in between SC fueling days, as the American teams gathered for a burger and brat’s night at the FILI Hotel Pavilion. The “Baconater” was the hit burger of the gathering. For those that may have missed the event, that is the bacon cheeseburger on a toasted roll with the works.

And lo and behold, Halloween fell on a weekend out here. Because of the busy Sunday, as joint operations has begun, we decided to hold the annual Halloween Party on Saturday. Many thanks to ILS Reston for the decorations that were sent in for this campaign. The pavilion was very festive and the night was enjoyed by American and Russian alike, nearly 80 folks in attendance. And while they may not have trick or treating in Russia and Kazakhstan, everyone sure did enjoy the party. And while costumes were scarce, a few folks showed their creative sides by making due with what they had. And a huge thanks to the kitchen staff for their continued support of our activities. The carved pumpkin centerpieces were outstanding and the orange and black cake, decorated with chocolate spiders and bats, just fantastic! As we like to say, over and above.

L – 13 and counting. Wonder what we can do for an encore?

November 1, 2010

It is hard to believe that it is November already. It seems like we just started this campaign! But that is how operations go out here in Baikonur.

Since we last checked in, all teams have been quite the busy. Once the SC stand alone operations started, the activities in Hall 103A have been almost nonstop. Electrical checks were performed and completed with no issues, and they were immediately followed up by the prop team doing what they do best. Oxidizer and hydrazine fueling were both completed right on schedule and the SC was readied for joint operations start up by Saturday afternoon.

And all the while, KhSC was their own kind of busy in hall 111. Not only are they completing preparations on our launch vehicle, they received the next launch vehicle and they are making preparations already for the NEXT commercial campaign.

The real excitement of a campaign starts when joint operations starts. And sure enough, joint operations began as planned at 0700 on Sunday morning. Not only are the days filled with activities on both sides, but everyone knows that this means launch day is a mere two weeks away. All parties have met in Hall 101 and at present, the SC is mated to the Breeze M upper stage. Preparations are being finalized for the orbital unit to go horizontal, with the installation of the payload fairing scheduled next. Can you say “logo signing?”

L – 13 and counting.

October 22, 2010

Well it has certainly been one of those weeks out here in Baikonur. As soon as we finished celebrating the successful launch of the XM-5 spacecraft (SC) with a great BBQ, we were already welcoming the next campaign team – SkyTerra 1.

Beginning on Saturday, we said a welcoming hello to the SkyTerra 1 main team from Boeing and our customer LightSquared. Then on Sunday we said goodbye to the XM-5 equipment, as the backhaul was completed successfully. They even loaded a few of the Loral mechanical team onto the Antonov for the trip back home. Then another goodbye as the remainder of the XM-5 team from Loral headed back home to sunny California. Oh, yeah, then there was another hello, as the SkyTerra 1 SC and cargo arrived later Monday. Did you get all that?

The one constant through all of this: The ILS team, as they will remain intact through the second campaign.

So as we were waving goodbye, we were already offloading the SkyTerra 1 SC. SC fitcheck was completed, standalone testing was started and we were underway! Once we had a chance to catch our breath, it was decided to hold a "welcome to Baikonur" BBQ hosted by the Boeing riggers. And despite the already chilly weather, as we hit 0 degree Celsius (32 degree Fahrenheit) already, the boys braved the weather and did a great job. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Kudo’s to the hotel staff for the great job setting up the dining experience inside the Fili Hotel.

October 21, 2010

Welcome to the seventh ILS Proton launch campaign for 2010 – the launch of the Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems-built, SkyTerra 1 satellite for LightSquared. Follow along with the mission team as they prepare for the launch.

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