MOSCOW, April 21, 2008 – The Russian State Commission investigating the AMC-14 failure of a Proton Breeze M launch has traced the cause to the rupture of the gas duct between the gas generator and the propellant pump turbine in the Breeze M main engine.
This led to the Breeze M upper stage engine shutting down 2 minutes before the end of the second Breeze M burn on March 15. As a precaution, the AMC-14 satellite payload was released into a lower-than-planned orbit. Owner SES AMERICOM announced that it is declaring AMC-14 a total loss. The mission was managed by International Launch Services (ILS), which markets commercial missions on the Proton vehicle.
The Russian investigative commission said that the most probable cause of the gas duct rupture was due to the combined effects of duct wall erosion, high temperatures and prolonged low frequency pressure fluctuation in the duct. The Commission recommended corrective actions to comprehensively address each of the contributing factors. Khrunichev, which manufactures both the Proton 3-stage booster and the Breeze M upper stage, was further directed to perform corrective action to improve the reliability of the Breeze M main engine. These corrective actions must be taken before the Breeze M can be returned to flight, according to Russian procedure.
Overall, the Breeze M has flown on Proton 24 times. The engine used in the Breeze M has been used successfully on the Russian Rokot vehicle (Breeze K and KM) and the Soyuz-Fregate launcher.
ILS, meanwhile, has assembled a group of aerospace experts as well as customer and insurance representatives into a Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB). The FROB members will review the Russian Commission findings, then travel to Moscow at the end of this week for official briefings on the findings and corrective actions. After an exhaustive review process, the FROB will determine if the corrective actions meet ILS standards for commercial return to flight.
“We and our partner, Khrunichev, are committed to a credible return to flight and an overall Proton recovery plan that restores customer confidence and future mission success,” said Frank McKenna, President, ILS.