SAN DIEGO, Jan. 21, 2000 – The Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB) organized by International Launch Services (ILS) and Lockheed-Khrunichev- Energia (LKE) to review the findings of the Russian Federal Inter-agency Launch Failure Review Board's (ILFRB) investigation, issued a status report yesterday regarding the October 27, 1999 Proton flight failure. Attached are the highlights of this status report, which were prepared by FROB Co-Chairmen Eric Laursen and Don Hart.
The January 12-15 FROB meetings examined extensive data, including 21 possible failure scenarios included in the Russian report. A most probable cause of failure has been identified and corrective actions are being implemented.
"ILS/LKE are committed to a successful return to flight and are very pleased with the efficient progress that has resulted from our partnership with Khrunichev," said Dr. Mark J. Albrecht, President of ILS. "We are confident that the investigation's results will be compelling to our customers."
Based on these results, the ACeS/Garuda 1 launch campaign will resume next week, with the Proton return-to-flight now planned for mid-February 2000.
"We are satisfied that the work completed by the Khrunichev and ILS teams will allow for the successful return-to-flight of Proton in February," said Adi Adiwoso, CEO and President of ASIA Cellular System (ACeS) International, "and we are excited that the ACeS/Garuda 1 commercial mission will mark the first launch on Proton since last October."
With yesterday's conclusion of public domain briefings to the insurance community, the FROB is focusing its efforts on briefing international customers, under U.S. State Department issued licenses.
Until additional licenses are approved by the U.S. State Department, ILS/LKE is limited to sharing only public domain information regarding the launch failure investigation, due to U.S. Government export control requirements.
ILS/LKE Failure Review Oversight Board Status Report Highlights
The FROB charter is to review the findings of the Russian Federal Inter-agency Launch Failure Review Board, the activities of Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and the Voronezh Mechanical Plant, and to report on the most probable cause(s) of failure and the associated corrective actions. The FROB received a summary of the Russian ILRFB report before beginning the January 12-15 sessions.
According to the Russian Inter-agency Launch Failure Review Board (ILFRB), the most probable cause was silica and metal oxide contamination inside the flight engine's gas generator and turbine assembly. The contamination was inside the engine due to manufacturing process errors. The characteristics of these inert particles were such that the nozzles feeding warm, oxidizer-rich gas to the turbine wheel were distressed and eventually burned. The burning resulted in flow path rupture and engine catastrophic failure.
The principal corrective actions defined by the Russian ILFRB include the prevention of particulate contamination by proper manufacturing and quality control processes, plus special examination of all flight engines. Longer term design enhancements to the engine, to be incorporated starting this year, were already underway at the time of the July 5, 1999 launch failure.
Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center (KhSC) and its subcontractor, Voronezh Mechanical Plant (VMZ), intend to perform a Contamination Simulation hot firing test in the next two weeks to demonstrate further the validity of their failure scenario finding.
Based on presentations made in Moscow, it is the view of the FROB that the Russians have (a) a most probable cause scenario and (b) a sound plan with appropriate corrective actions. As part of the process of validating the findings for the FROB's conclusions, we will examine the conditions and results of this Contamination Simulation test before issuing a final report in early February 2000.
The launch of ACeS/Garuda 1 is now planned for mid-February 2000.