SAN DIEGO, Oct. 28, 1999 – International Launch Services (ILS) said today that commercial Proton launches on its manifest will be on hold until the Russian State Failure Commission concludes its investigation of the Proton/Express launch failure that occurred the evening of Oct. 27 from Baikonur Cosmodrome.
"We share with our Russian partners the disappointment over the Proton failure," said Dr. Mark J. Albrecht, president of ILS. "The launch business can be unforgiving, but these events cause us to redouble our efforts to ensure mission success for our customers."
Albrecht added, "Proton is an integral part of our launch services business. We remain completely committed to our partnership."
The most immediate launch affected is the ACeS Garuda 1 mission, which had been postponed from October 31 due to a reoccurrence of a fuel leak in the Block DM upper stage. A new launch date will be established after the failure investigation is completed and a corrective action plan is in place. It is also ILS and Lockheed Martin policy to form a Failure Review Oversight Board to review the findings of the failure investigation and to independently assess and validate the return-to-flight plan.
The status of the vehicle intended for the ACeS Garuda 1 mission is that the Block DM will be defueled and returned to Moscow for disassembly and investigation. A new Block DM stage is available at Baikonur for integration with the Proton, subject to its clearance from the fuel leak issue, and pending clearance of the entire vehicle as a result of the launch failure investigation.
International Launch Services is a joint venture stock company established in 1995 to market two of the world's premier launch vehicles, the American-built Atlas and the Russian-built Proton. Proton is built by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center.
The events surrounding the failure are taken from the press release issued by Khrunichev Space Center on Oct. 28:
The Proton launch vehicle was launched from launch pad 39 at Baikonur Cosmodrome on 27 October at 20:16 Moscow Summer Time. The vehicle was to launch the Express-A1 satellite into orbit. The owner of the satellite is the Russian Space Communication Company (RSCC).
Based on preliminary data, failure of one of the four main second stage engines occurred 222 seconds after liftoff, followed by failure of all engines of the stage. The second stage together with the upper stage and satellite fell back to earth in the Karaganda Region of Kazakhstan.
The launch was carried out for the Russian Aviation and Space Agency. The satellite was manufactured by NPO PM and was intended to be used for Russian domestic satellite communications.
A state investigation committee has been formed including representatives of Khrunichev, its subcontracors, RSCC and RASA. This is the third failure of the Proton K launcher caused by the launch vehicle itself over the last ten years.