June 18, Le Bourget, France-International Launch Services (ILS) and Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center (KhSC) conducted a media briefing during the 50th Paris Air Show, where 144 countries exhibited and over 350,000 visitors attended. The joint briefing focused on the KhSC and ILS partnership over 20 years serving the commercial launch industry. The discussion also centered on quality measures, Proton enhancements and new developments. Both Mr. Alexander Seliverstov, director general of KhSC and Phil Slack, president of ILS, provided a summary of the venture, then invited questions from the international media.
A Sustainable 20-Year Partnership
The 20 year ILS anniversary is marked by the establishment in 1993 of Lockheed-Khrunichev-Energia International (LKEI), the joint venture established to exclusively market the Russian Proton launch vehicle, later named International Launch Services. Bringing ILS into the KhSC fold–a longstanding leader in the advancement of global space programs–resulted in the “best of both worlds” combining the legacy of one of the world’s largest space production centers with the talent and experience of the ILS team.
The ILS/KhSC venture represents one of the most successful post-Cold War economic cooperation between the United States and Russia. “We are resting on the shoulders of the true giants who designed, envisioned and manufactured this hardware,” said Mr. Sergey Anisimov, Deputy Director General of Khrunichev, who opened up the press conference with some brief remarks.
Some key figures were provided explaining the significant history of both companies:
- Proton is responsible for launching 30 percent of global commercial payloads
- There have been 387 Proton launches over its history; 81 of which were for ILS commercial customers
- The value of all commercial contracts signed to date equates to approximately $7.5 billion dollars
- Commercial Proton launches have provided approximately 50% of Khrunichev’s revenues over the past decade
- This business helps to provide over 40,000 jobs at KhSC and over 100,000 jobs throughout Russia
- ILS has maintained a healthy backlog which now equates to approx. 1.5 billion dollars for 15 missions
- Over the past 6 years, Proton has launched an average of 10 times per year
- So far in 2013, ILS has launched 4 commercial missions with the next missions planned in July and August and an additional 1 to 2 missions in the 4th quarter. The next commercial launch is the Astra 2E mission on July 21 for SES
Responding to Customer Requirements
Addressing how ILS competes in the marketplace, Slack responded that ILS and Khrunichev offer a product that meets customer requirements offering schedule assurance, reliability and flexible terms and conditions at a fair price. “Competition is nothing new to us; we knew how competitive the market was when we decided to offer the Proton commercially,” he said.
ILS and Khrunichev are continually working on new developments to accommodate changes in technology driven by customers’ demand for heavier, larger volume satellites, lighter stackable satellites and electric propulsion satellites. “I don’t know of any satellite currently being built that we do not have the capability to launch today”, said Slack.
Slack said that Khrunichev has evolved the vehicle from 5 to 6.15 metric tons to the reference (standard) GTO since its commercial introduction. The Phase IV enhancements to the vehicle will increase that capacity to 200kg to GTO and will fly in 2014.
Proton launched its heaviest satellite to date with the ViaSat-1 satellite weighing over 6.7 metric tons. Recently, ILS was awarded a mission for EchoStar for a satellite weighing more than 6.9 metric tons planned for launch in the late 2015 or early 2016 timeframe.
Proton has provided direct GSO mission insertion for the Russian Federation and Russian domestic satellite operators for many years. ILS has commercialized this capability and provides direct GSO insertion missions for lighter satellites.
Significant investment by KhSC in the new 5 meter fairing will support customers needing a larger payload fairing diameter to accommodate flexibility in satellite designs such as taller spacecraft and those with larger reflectors.
Quality is Always the Top Priority
Since Proton’s return to flight in March, ILS has had four consecutive successes over a four month period. To improve quality control and reliability, there were special commissions set up to analyze failures such as the Telemetry Analysis Group. This team was established to track conformance to requirements, review and track margins, establish trending, maintain statistical measurements, and provide predictive techniques to identify trends that will enhance future Proton Breeze M reliability. Summary reports will be provided with future ILS Quarterly Quality Reports.
A wide-spread review of the entire Breeze M upper stage is expected to be completed by early to mid- 2014. The purpose of this reliability study is to identify any weaknesses in the Breeze M design, manufacture and testing with the goal of increasing the demonstrated actual reliability to the calculated theoretical reliability. Russian aerospace experts from qualified organizations are working in parallel with KhSC experts to analyze the various Breeze M systems, such as propulsion, avionics, telemetry and guidance.
In order to ensure that the operators and technicians assembling, testing and processing the Proton Breeze M are maintaining the highest level of training and certification, KhSC is establishing more stringent and frequent re-training and re-certification programs.
KhSC has also expanded purchasing and installation of new automated equipment and tooling that will ensure consistency and lower the chance of technician error in the production, assembly and test of Proton Breeze M.
“Khrunichev Space Center is paying particular attention to issues of quality control and this is not something of a singular effort, it is an ongoing program. All products have to come with the level of quality which is required to accomplish mission success,” said Seliverstov.
Expanding International Cooperation
Seliverstov pointed out that there have been three launches conducted with KhSC’s South Korean partners with the KSLV. KhSC first stage performance were “absolutely successful” on all three missions and they are continuing their work together, he said.
KhSC’s cooperation has also expanded to customers in India. Seliverstov said that KhSC has participated in the development of upper stages for India. Some upper stages were demonstrated while others are waiting to be flown. Khrunichev welcomes the opportunity to develop new global partnerships.
The Next Generation: Preparing for Testing at The Launch Site
The first set of Angara flight hardware has been delivered to the launch base and comprehensive tests have been completed successfully. Currently there are more tests being performed at the processing facility using the prototype hardware. In terms of the launch pad, there is still some activity being conducted to ensure readiness. The first flight of the light class Angara is scheduled for 2014. The heavy lift Angara is also scheduled for later in 2014 and is currently being assembled. Before the end of this year, Khrunichev expects to complete the heavy class vehicle production. The family of variants could accommodate any circumstance including, with further development, possible exploration to the Moon.
ILS will have the exclusive rights to launch the Angara family of vehicles commercially. There is no set date for commercial Proton replacement by Angara. Until the Angara vehicle has been fully flight proven on Federal missions, there are no plans to use it commercially, so, Proton will continue to be the primary vehicle for commercial launches.
Slack concluded, “ILS has been proudly and loyally serving the commercial industry for 20 years,” and with Khrunichev, “is looking forward to serving the industry for decades to come”.