The Proton Breeze M launch vehicle, manufactured by Khrunichev Space Center, successfully orbited the ExoMars mission spacecraft today. The Russian-European ExoMars-2016 mission (ExoMars) consists of the Schiaparelli, an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, and the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).
The Proton Breeze M launch vehicle lifted off at 10:31 Moscow Time (05:31 ET, 09:31 GMT, 10:31 CET) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The launch, flight and subsequent separation of the Orbital Unit (comprised of the Breeze M and the TGO plus the Schiaparelli spacecraft stack) from Stage III occurred nominally. The remainder of the orbital insertion of the spacecraft was performed successfully by the Breeze-M Upper Stage.
At exactly 23:13 (16:13 ET, 20:13 GMT, 21:13 CET) Moscow Time, the TGO / Schiaparelli spacecraft stack separated from Breeze-M Upper Stage and continued its subsequent mission to Mars independently.
This was the 2nd Proton Breeze M launch of 2016 and is the 411th in the Proton vehicle’s flight history.
ExoMars is a joint endeavor of the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, and the European Space Agency (ЕSA). The Trace Gas Orbiter will study small quantities of gas impurities in the atmosphere and distribution of water and ice in the soil of Mars using Russian scientific equipment designed at the Institute for Space Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The Schiaparelli landing demonstrator is intended for verifying viability of the procedures required for entering the atmosphere, descending, landing, and carrying out research using onboard scientific equipment. The 2016 TGO will act as a relay for the 2018 ExoMars mission comprising a rover and a surface science platform.
The Proton and the Breeze-M upper stage are designed and manufactured by the Khrunichev Space Center, one of the cornerstones of the Russian space industry. The Proton launch vehicle has been in service over 50 years and can lift 6.35 metric tons to reference Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) and 6.55 metric tons to reference Supersynchronous Transfer Orbit (SSTO). The restartable Breeze M upper stage allows for optimizing each mission and maximizing projected in-orbit lifetime.
For more about Khrunichev Space Center, visit: http://www.khrunichev.com
For more about ExoMars, visit the ESA fact sheet: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/ExoMars/ExoMars_Factsheet