McLEAN, Va., Dec. 9, 2002 — A Russian State Failure Commission has been formed to investigate the anomaly that occurred during the Nov. 25 launch of a Proton K/Block DM rocket with the ASTRA 1K satellite.
The commission has exonerated the three-stage Proton K launch vehicle, and is focusing its investigation on the Block DM fourth stage. Initial flight data indicate that the Block DM performed successfully during its first main engine firing. The anomaly occurred at the start of the second Block DM main engine burn, and the satellite was placed in a much lower orbit than intended.
The launch was carried out under the auspices of International Launch Services (ILS), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and two Russian companies, Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and RSC Energia.
The commission is led by Anatoli Koroteev, general director of the Thermal Processes Institute of the Keldish Center, and includes representatives of all organizations involved in the design, manufacture, operation and support of the Proton K/Block DM launch vehicle.
The commission is expected to release a preliminary assessment of its findings by mid-December. This will be followed by a complete statement of findings and corrective actions in late December/early January. Data on all vehicle systems and operations will be examined during the early phases of the investigation, with a narrowing of the investigative focus as the commission continues its work.
Independently of the Russian commission, ILS is forming a Failure Review Oversight Board. ILS has secured a technical assistance agreement from the U.S. Department of State, which provides authority to engage in discussions with Khrunichev regarding the mission.
The board will be chaired by Eric Laursen, ILS vice president and chief engineer. Other members are being confirmed, and will include senior space experts, an insurance industry representative, and representatives from the customer for the failed mission (SES-ASTRA), the satellite manufacturer (Alcatel Space) and the owner of the next satellite scheduled for Proton (Telesat Canada).
The oversight board will meet with the representatives of the Russian State Failure Commission in Moscow upon completion of the commission's investigation, probably in late December or early January. The board is chartered to independently review the methods, conclusions and corrective action recommendations of the Russian commission investigation and to report on the findings.
ILS, based in McLean, Va., markets and manages the missions for the Russian Proton and the American Atlas launch vehicles.