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ILS and Khrunichev: Responding and Adapting to Challenges in 2011 and Preparing for a Robust Year in Commercial Launch for 2012

Date of News Item: 
January 11, 2012

 

International Launch Services (ILS), a leading global commercial satellite launch services provider, and Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center (Khrunichev), have the proven ability to adapt to challenges. The year 2011 presented many challenges, not just for ILS and Khrunichev, but for the satellite industry as a whole. 

At the end of the year, ILS and Khrunichev accomplished an extraordinary feat: 9 Proton launches in under 7 months, 5 of them being ILS Proton launches, and 6 launches within 3 months at the end of the year. This is a capability that is unmatched in the industry. With a sustained backlog of over 20 missions for nearly 5 years, a production rate of 12 to 14 systems in a year, and a dedicated team of professionals at ILS, we continue to perform with our customers’ support.

The first half of 2011 presented challenges with our manifest as satellite deliveries were delayed affecting the first three missions planned on ILS Proton. Then, after our first ILS Proton launch with the Estrela do Sul 2/ Telstar 14R satellite for Telesat in May, there were further shifts in the launch schedule due to satellite in-orbit anomalies and technical issues.  We were able to minimize the impact on our downstream missions due to the robust production in the Khrunichev Proton factory and the readiness and responsiveness of the mission teams.  We have implemented the Second Spacecraft Processing Facility that has been in full use at the launch site in Baikonur to accommodate overlapping campaigns and more efficiently launch spacecraft as they come out of the factory.

In July, we marked a significant milestone with longtime customer SES, when ILS Proton performed its first dual launch with the SES-3 satellite, paired with the KazSat-2 satellite to serve the Kazakh government. The SES-3 satellite was injected into geostationary transfer orbit, followed by the KazSat-2 satellite which was directly placed into geosynchronous orbit.

However, on August 18, the Russian Federal Proton Breeze M carrying the Express AM-4 satellite suffered an anomaly, placing the spacecraft into an unintended orbit.  It was determined by the Russian Interagency Commission that the anomaly was caused by a mission specific flight software error and that all other Breeze M systems performed within specifications.  ILS assisted the spacecraft manufacturer in the mission recovery efforts, conducted a Failure Review for our commercial customers and provided a briefing to the insurance community to clear Proton M Breeze M for flight.

The successful return-to-flight occurred on September 21 with a Russian Federal mission. Nine days later, ILS launched the QuetzSat-1 satellite for SES, to serve their customer, DISH Network of Mexico, providing DTH services to millions of new customers in an emerging market.  In October, we met a performance milestone with ViaSat, launching the heaviest satellite to date on ILS Proton, the ViaSat-1 satellite.  ViaSat-1, weighing over 6.7 metric tons, has the highest capacity of all current and planned North American satellites. We went on to launch the AsiaSat 7 satellite for AsiaSat of Hong Kong in November.

Another challenge presented itself while we were preparing to launch the 6th and final ILS Proton mission of the year with the SES-4 satellite on December 27.  Telemetry showed an out-of-tolerance condition for a component in the Breeze M avionics system during pre-launch checks.  The thorough and complete investigation of this component anomaly is in keeping with ILS’ and Khrunichev’s total commitment to quality, reliability and readiness of the launch vehicle to optimally serve our customers.  We appreciate the support that we have received from SES and all of our customers during the re-planning process for the launch of SES-4.

Our launch orders for this year reflect the continued confidence both new and return customers place in ILS. Earlier in the year, we announced the ILS Proton launch of SES-6 for SES in 2013, an expansion of the Multi-Launch Agreement (MLA) signed over four years ago between ILS and SES Satellite Leasing Limited in the Isle of Man.  One month later, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (MELCO) awarded ILS two launches: the Turksat 4a satellite in 2013 and Turksat 4b satellite in 2014. Turksat 4a and 4b will serve MELCO’s customer, Turksat, bringing TV broadcasting and telecommunications services throughout Turkey. ILS also received a triple award from Inmarsat for ILS Proton to launch the entire Global XPress™ constellation:  Inmarsat 5 F1, Inmarsat 5 F2 and Inmarsat 5 F3. In addition, in November, we announced the contract to launch the W3D satellite for Eutelsat, a critical replacement satellite to launch in 2013. In addition to these new orders, we also received two assignments in 2011; EchoStar XVI for EchoStar to serve DISH Network and Astra 2E for SES.

We look forward to serving our customers with outstanding quality with an ILS Proton launch.  We wish you all the best for a happy and prosperous New Year.

 

Sincerely,

Frank McKenna Signature

Frank McKenna

President, International Launch Services

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