Intelsat 16 Stage Separations

We had a successful liftoff about 15 minutes ago of our Proton M Breeze M rocket, which is carrying the Intelsat 16 satellite. The three stages of the Proton vehicle have performed as planned, and it is up to the Breeze M upper stage to complete the mission. The upper stage has begun its first burn, which is scheduled to last around 4 minutes.

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Intelsat 16 Mission Successful!

We have had a successful mission with the Proton M Breeze M rocket, carrying the Intelsat 16 satellite built by Orbital Sciences Corporation. We have had confirmation that the satellite separated from the vehicle on schedule at 5:14 a.m. EST, or 10:14 GMT, 9 hours and 34 minutes after liftoff. Everything occurred as planned with ignition, shutdown and separation of the Proton’s first three stages. Then the Breeze M upper stage with the satellite continued the mission, igniting four times, and then releasing the satellite into near-stationary orbit.

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Intelsat 16 Third Burn Completion

We have confirmed that the Breeze M upper stage has successfully completed its 3rd burn, as well as jettisoning its auxiliary propellant tank. The vehicle is now in a 5-hour coast period, during which we will have nothing to report. The 4th burn is scheduled to start around 4:50 a.m. EST, or 09:50 GMT. Separation of the Intelsat 16 spacecraft is scheduled to follow the 4th burn completion by about 14 minutes.

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Intelsat 16 Second Burn Completion

As the Breeze M upper stage of our Proton M rocket continues its climb into space with the Intelsat 16 satellite, we have received confirmation that the 2nd burn of the upper stage occurred and shut down as scheduled. The next events are scheduled for about 2 hours from now. The Breeze M upper stage will ignite for a 3rd time and burn for approximately 20 minutes; after that the auxiliary propellant tank will be jettisoned. All this will happen while the vehicle is again out of range of a ground station. We should reacquire the vehicle shortly after the APT is jettisoned.

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Signing the PLF

One of the least technical operations that we perform here is the signing of the PLF by the entire launch team. But it is fun to watch the team members take turns climbing up on to the catwalk, putting their personal touches on the fairing logos and then climbing back down. The biggest decisions are what to write, and who to dedicate the launch to: parents, children and loved ones of all sorts are named on the fairing as a tribute to them from the launch team members. It’s a great photo opportunity for the team. It is also one of the last things we do prior to mating the AU to the launch vehicle. It has been a long road for the Orbital Science’s team and their satellite, and it is at this point that they physically hand it over to the capable hands of our Russian teammates from Khrunichev.

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PLF Encapsulation

It is time to say goodbye to the SC, visually anyway, as the PLF is ready to be installed. With the SC horizontal and hovering above a rail track, the bottom half of the fairing is situated on a rail car below. It sits in a cradle and is hand cranked into position under the SC. Once that is in place, the upper half of the fairing is hoisted up by crane and positioned above the prone SC and lowered to mate with the bottom PLF half. Under the eyes of the watchful team from Orbital, KhSC’s operations were successful and the Intelsat-16 SC was officially encapsulated in preparation for its ride into orbit. This newly assembled configuration is now called the ascent unit (AU). Once the two PLF halves are secured, the team will spend two days performing electrical tests and verifying that, although encapsulated, it is still possible to communicate with the SC. The term “team” certainly applies in this case, as a veritable plethora of activities are ongoing while the Orbital folks and the Khrunichev teams work together performing pre-launch testing. Time now to mate the AU to the Proton launch vehicle! The fun continues…

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Going Horizontal

After a successful mating of the SC-PLA to the Breeze M, the sum of which is referred to as the Orbital Unit (OU), there was very little time to admire the handiwork as we moved right into payload fairing (PLF) encapsulation the very next morning. The first order of business required for encapsulation is the need to have the SC in a horizontal position. This is one of the more harrowing operations to witness. Here is the OU stack, SC fully loaded with propellant, coupled with the Breeze M upper stage, which is mounted to the tilt-over fixture. That is a whole lot of inches and a whole lot of pounds, supported only by the mounting base, and we have to rotate it from vertical to horizontal in order to install the payload fairing. No matter how many times one observes this operation, one cannot help but watch and comment that it is just not supposed to look like this. It can be quite nerve-wracking during these 30 minutes. It seems to get very quiet in Hall 101 while everything is underway, but the method once again proved true. The SC, Breeze M, PLA system and moved to horizontal just as they were supposed to do. It really is a spectacular sight to see.

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For the latest news and information, or if you have a question, please email ILS at contactus@ilslaunch.com