We have Liftoff!

The ILS Team is proud to announce the successful liftoff of the Proton Breeze M carrying the THOR 5 satellite! Liftoff occurred at 6:34 a.m. EST (5:34 p.m. Baikonur, 11:34 GMT). Proton’s three stages, including payload fairing jettison, have performed flawlessly. The Breeze M upper stage has completed the first of its four burns and is presently in a circular parking orbit. We’ll update this blog and the hotline when we receive confirmation of the Breeze M second burn. That should be in about an hour. [url=http://streamvox.streamos.com/vyvx/ils021008/]Full 45-minute launch broadcast[/url] [url=http://www.ilslaunch.com/ils/thor-cbl.wmv]Click to view launch video clip[/url] [url=http://www.ilslaunch.com/ils/news-020508/]Media Advisory[/url]


Launcher in place

Yesterday the Proton M launch vehicle was transported from our processing facility to Launch Pad 39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. It began its trip to the pad at exactly 6:30 a.m., which is a Russian tradition because it corresponds to the time the vehicle for Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, rolled out to the pad. Most of the team traveled to the pad a few hours after the transportation of the ILV began. We arrived just in time to witness the Russian specialists undertake the monumental task of erecting this huge rocket. Of course, we were not going to miss our chance to take a team photo in front of such an impressive sight. The Orbital, Telenor, ILS and KhSC teams are now completing final closeouts and checks, as well as rehearsing for Sunday’s long-awaited launch of the Proton M/Breeze M and THOR 5. [img]http://www.ilslaunch.com/assets/Images/Media/Thor-5-BLOG/DSC0064small.jpg[/img]


Fairing well

Since the last update to this blog our team has been extremely busy, as we are growing ever closer to Sunday’s launch of THOR 5. After the spacecraft was mated to the payload adapter (PLA) the Breeze M was moved into position on the tilter stand. Shortly after this occurred, the SC/PLA assembly was moved on top of the Breeze M upper stage, attached, and the whole assembly was tilted from a vertical to a horizontal position. After some testing by Orbital the now-horizontal orbital unit was ready to be encapsulated by the payload fairing. The bottom half was first slid under the orbital unit. Once it was in place the top half of the fairing was gently and expertly picked up off the ground, moved and then placed on top of the unit. This operation was undertaken by not one, but two, Khrunichev (KhSC) crane operators working in tandem with two cranes. After both halves of the fairing were in place KhSC specialists began the process of attaching them to the Breeze M, as well as applying Telenor, Orbital and ILS logos to the fairing. Shortly after they were applied most of the team climbed up a ladder to the logos and left their mark. Some team members signed their names on the logos, while others left wishes for a good flight and an inside joke or two (not to mention a cheer of “Go Giants!”) [img]http://www.ilslaunch.com/assets/Images/Media/Thor-5/028-Gumby2small.jpg[/img] The full assembly of the spacecraft, adapter, Breeze M and fairing is known as the Ascent Unit (AU). With the AU now fully assembled it was ready to be detached from the tilter stand, and lifted (again by tandem Russian crane operators) onto a railcar. The railcar transported the AU out of Processing Hall 101 and moved it to the other side of the building to Hall 111. This hall is where our Proton M rocket has been residing and has undergone testing and preparations for the past many weeks. Shortly after the AU arrived in Hall 111 KhSC began the process of mating it to the Proton M launch vehicle. After this mating of the launch vehicle and AU, we refer to the now nearly complete Proton M as the Integrated Launch Vehicle (ILV). The ILV spent a couple of days inside Hall 111 as closeout operations were being performed and as Orbital conducted some electrical tests to make sure that they could communicate with their spacecraft through the Proton launch vehicle. The ILV is now reaching the final stages of preparations for launch. Yesterday it was moved from Hall 111 to the nearby Breeze M fueling station, where it was to spend two days in order for the Breeze M to be loaded with fuel and oxidizer. As mentioned in a previous post, these fueling days allow most of the team to get some rest. A day off usually means a trip into town, this time was no exception. Yesterday brought a special treat with it in the form of the launch of a Soyuz launch vehicle carrying supplies to the International Space Station. Many of our team were able to witness this successful launch. Tomorrow we will be getting ready to watch our Proton M rocket roll via railcar from the Breeze M fueling station to the launch pad. At around 9:30 a.m. we will all be there to watch it being erected on the pad, and of course we will have our cameras ready for this amazing photo op.


Safety first

This past week the team has been focused on with what we call standalone operations. During this period Orbital conducted mechanical and electrical tests on THOR 5 to confirm that the spacecraft is operational and ready for its trip into orbit. I am pleased to announce that these tests were all completed successfully. THOR 5 is now being readied to have its fuel tanks filled. This is a potentially extremely hazardous operation, for which the very capable Orbital propellant team has been carefully preparing. Before this operation can be undertaken, though, our team was required to evacuate the Processing Facility for the better part of two days. This was because the Breeze M upper stage for this weekend’s Proton mission with the Russian Express satellite was being fueled just outside the facility. So for the safety of the whole team we got a two-day break. Many members used this time off to rest, while others decided to take a trip (or two) into Baikonur Town and to the Yuri Gagarin Museum, on the grounds of the Cosmodrome. Baikonur Town is a very interesting place full of nice people, good food and drink, and bargains to be had for those team members who decided to do a little shopping. With our two-day break coming to a close the whole team must now prepare for fueling THOR 5, which is occur Friday.


Unpacking the Spacecraft

Beginning late on Sunday, and carrying on through the early hours of Monday, the team undertook the task of unpacking the THOR 5 spacecraft from its container. It was necessary to complete this process quickly, as the THOR team had to be out of Processing Hall 101 Monday morning to make way for a Russian satellite coming into the same hall. That spacecraft, Express, is scheduled to be launched Jan. 28 in the first flight for Proton in 2008. The unpacking process began with the removal of the lid of the spacecraft container. The spacecraft had been wrapped in special blankets to protect it from any possible contamination during its journey to Baikonur. Next, the blankets were carefully removed and our team got its first look at THOR 5 at the Cosmodrome. At this point a few satellite specialists inspected the spacecraft for any signs of damage. As expected, no damage was found, so we commenced removing our valuable package from its container. [img]http://www.ilslaunch.com/assets/Images/Media/Thor-5/entry5a.jpg[/img] The spacecraft made the trip in the horizontal position. In order to remove it from the container, it had to be rotated to a vertical position, which was carefully and successfully completed by the team from Orbital. Now in its vertical position, THOR 5 was ready to be lifted by crane from its container and transferred a few feet onto a rolling dolly, where it will spend the next many days undergoing tests of all its critical systems. This is a period we refer to as Standalone Operations, where the spacecraft manufacturer, Orbital, performs tests on and ultimately fuels the spacecraft in anticipation of mating it with the Breeze M/Proton M launch vehicle.


Breeze M Delivered

The Khrunichev-built Breeze M upper stage that will be used for the THOR 5 launch arrived today at the launch site, on an Antonov AN 124-100 cargo plane. The team is in the process of moving it to Assembly and Testing Building 92A-50 for prelaunch preparations. With the Breeze M’s arrival, all key components – the core Proton rocket, its upper stage and the spacecraft – are now at the launch site. During the next week and a half, the operations with the launcher and the spacecraft will be performed independently by different teams in the same building. Then joint operations, including mating the satellite to the launcher, will begin.


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