The annual SATELLITE Conference and Exhibition attracts executives across the industry for networking, conference sessions and panels, special events. More than 14,000 satellite professionals from more than 150 countries attend the conference, now in its 35th year. Below is a summary of some of the key ILS news highlighted during the conference.
ILS kicked off the conference with an announcement on the availability of the 5 meter fairing for commercial launches on the heritage Proton Breeze M and Proton Medium vehicles. The five meter diameter fairing will be available in first quarter of 2020 for both vehicles. This wider, taller fairing directly addresses higher volume spacecraft such as High Throughput Satellites (HTS) satellites, meeting the height requirements of stacked satellites and accommodating manifesting of multiple launches for large LEO constellations. This is a competitive solution for satellite operators who are seeking flexible, cost-effective launch solutions which extend the lifetime of their satellites to support their business plans.
ILS President Kirk Pysher and Vice President of Engineering and Mission Assurance Jim Kramer provided a comprehensive briefing to the media on Tuesday, March 7 on the Proton Medium vehicle and the 5 meter fairing.
Last fall ILS unveiled the development of two variants of the heritage 3-stage Proton launch vehicle, Proton Medium and Proton Light vehicles. These are the optimized 2-stage offspring of the heritage Proton Breeze M vehicle, for exclusive commercial use by ILS.
ILS primary focus is on the Proton Medium vehicle, with lift capability of up to 5 Metric Tons. The development program is moving forward, with the Preliminary Design Review conducted in December 2016.
As announced in the fall, the Proton Medium will be available beginning in 2018, launching from Pad 24 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The 2-stage Proton Medium offspring of Proton Breeze M, with six engines on the first stage, can utilize the 5 or 4-meter payload fairing with the benefits of the standard, flight-proven Proton M configuration and spacecraft insertion history.
New Business: In the first quarter of 2016, ILS announced an order with Inmarsat for a future Proton mission. This award followed the 3-satellite deployment of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Network by ILS Proton. The three satellites (Inmarsat-5 F1, Imarsat-5 F2 and Inmarsat-5 F3) form together the first globally available high-speed mobile broadband network, delivered through a single provider. All three satellites were successfully launched into Super-Synchronous Transfer Orbits (SSTO), maximizing their operational lifetime.
The first Angara 1.2 customer is the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) to launch the KOMPSAT-6 satellite, announced last August. KOMPSAT-6, with an estimated separated mass of over 1.7 metric tons, will be equipped with a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) developed and manufactured in cooperation with the domestic Korean industry. The Angara 1.2 serves the small to medium range satellite market, with the capability to launch up to 3.5 Metric Tons to Low Earth Orbit or Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO).
Two launch awards with Eutelsat in were announced in September under the framework of the Multi-Launch Agreement (MLA), a contract that includes multiple launches over a seven year period. The dual announcement includes a first-time all commercial shared launch on Proton Breeze M with the EUTELSAT 5 West B satellite, built on Orbital ATK’s GEOStar ™ platform, with an Airbus Defense and Space-built payload stacked on top of Orbital ATK’s MEV-1 spacecraft for launch in the last quarter of 2018. MEV-1, the first Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) developed by Orbital ATK. Controlled by the company’s satellite operations team, the MEV-1 uses a reliable, low-risk docking system that attaches to existing features on a customer’s satellite. The MEV-1 provides life-extending services by taking over the propulsion and attitude control functions. The vehicle has a 15-year design life with the ability to perform numerous dockings and undockings during its life span.
The second mission is baselined with the Proton Medium launch vehicle with a launch to be conducted in the 2019-2020 timeframe. ILS is in active discussions with other operators for launches utilizing the 2-stage Proton Medium.
Pysher also provided an update on the status of the second and third stage Proton engine recall. In December, during the standard quality process conducted by Khrunichev and the engine manufacturer, an issue was discovered. This was a hot fire test of an engine at the engine manufacturer which helps to evaluate over time, the stability of the production process, the performance of the engine and the build quality.
That engine undergoes an extensive hot fire test which includes extended durations over actual flight time of up to two times, and at a higher thrust level. Following that test, the engine goes through a destructive inspection process where they inspect the engine thoroughly. They cut up the engine, do visual and analytical assessments of the engine’s performance, and make assessments of the build quality. This is a standard process within the Russian system, one which is not typically employed in the West.
Following that test, as part of the inspection process, they discovered a component in the engine did not have the expected bonding characteristics of a brazed joint. The engine made it successfully through the hot fire test without issues.
An investigation was convened as a key component of the stringent quality oversight program. Roscosmos headed that investigation, and determined that the solder that was used in that brazing operation had a higher melt point than expected. Although the engine survived this periodic test, they made the decision to recall all those engines that had been suspect to using the higher melt point solder.
“That decision was not an easy one,” said Pysher, “But when you look at it from Khrunichev’s and Roscosmos’ perspective, the decision they made speaks to their rededication to ensuring 100 percent mission success.”
As far as what the impact of this 2nd and 3rd stage engine rework will be on the ILS manifest, ILS plans to conduct 3 commercial missions this year: EchoStar XXI, Amazonas 5 for Hispasat, and AsiaSat 9.
ILS is still working to understand the overall launch schedule and impact and will provide more information when it becomes available.
ILS’s most important goal is to safely and reliably launch satellites for its customers and to provide outstanding value for their business.