Post Tue Jul 19, 2011 9:46 am

How the spatial year 2010 ended-Part 5

Recently, on December 5, we reported about the launch of the Proton rocket from the Baikonour Cosmodrome, when on board were 3 new satellites from the Glonass constellation: Kosmos 2470, 2471 si 2472. If the previous flights serving the Glonass network used the Proton M-Blok DM2 configuration that time was preferred the new Blok DM3 configuration.
Russian company Energia, which builts the Proton rocket, has recently invested a large sum of money and managed to take, as reported in another Space Alliance article, the majority of the SeaLaunch’s shares, the operator who went to bankruptcy recently. There is therefore a long-term strategic reason for improving the performance of the Blok DM system as it will be used for some future commercial flights, and this testing opportunity, financed with government money, could not be ignored.
Unfortunately, the launch was a total failure, resulting in the loss of all three satellites in an accident serious enough to affect the strategic interests of the country, and Russian authorities reacted immediately, president Medvedev ordering an official invetigation. Furthermore, the investigation had a direct impact on the commercial launch of ILS (International Launch Services)- though this uses the Breeze M version, its satellite Ka-Sat's launch being postponed from December 20 to December 26.
The Glonass system would have had, according to official information, 26 satellites in orbit. Theoretically the number is sufficient for a complete coverage of Russian teritory (at least 18 satellites) and more for global expansion of services (24 satellites). However should be said that 4 satellites are in technical maintenance and 2 –more than 2 years old- are now kept as a back-up, so only 20 would be fully operational.
Glonass system ("Globalnaya Navigationnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema” or “Global Orbiting Navigation Satellite System”) was put into operation for the first time in September 1993 with a group of 12 satellites and has reached the projected number of 24 for a global coverage in December 1995. However due to financial problems at that time and to the lack of new investment, some satellites have been retired without beeing replaced.
The system consists of three orbital planes, separated by 120 degrees with the satellites from the same orbital plane separated by 45 degrees. Each satellite makes a circular orbit at a height of 19.100 km and an inclination of 64.8 degrees and has an orbital period of 11 hours and 15 minutes. Satellites are uniquely identified by the so-called "slot number"-the first orbital plane contains slots 1-8, second plane slots 9-16 and the third slots 17-24.
Each satellite transmits two types of signals, a standard one for commercial applications and a high-precision encoded one used by military applications. There are actually 25 channels separated by 0.5625 Mhz in the so-called L1 frequency bands :1602.5625-1615.5 Mhz and L2:1240-1260 Mhz.
According to official information, when the system will be complete, the maximum positioning error will be 70m, both horizontally and vertically, and the spped erorr will stay at a value of 15cm/s (in the case of civil system), the error decreasing to 10-20m in the case of military systems.
Returning to the initial thread, the committee instituted on December 5 by President Medvelev to investigate the causes of the accident has recently made public its findings. While the Proton rocket configuration was tested many times in space flights, the Block DM3 upper stage is new and was initially suspected as being the cause for the fault. This track was abandoned because it was proven that both the rocket and the auxiliary module worked perfectly.
Instead, it was found that Energia misjudged the amount of oxidizer necessary for Block DM-03, exceeding the indicated weight with 1-1.5 tons which has put the rocket into the wrong path and lead to the loss of three satellites. Both Roskosmos and Energia overlooked this simple calculation error as the commission ends up finding serious flaws in space flight preparation procedures.
Although the investigation was purely technical in the viewfinder, directions were extended so that we can easily talk about political issues and corruption.
Since 2001, the Glonass navigation system costed Russia 4.7 billion dollars and as mentioned is still not at full capacity although, despite the fact of being a key element for the Russian government.
To keep pace with competing satellite navigation systems, the Glonass system will benefit from an investment of $ 2.6 billion hoping to reach a total of 30 operational satellites in 2011. This change of the system's conception is a result of studies from 2007, when it was decided to change the number of satellites from 24 to 30-meaning 8 operational satellites plus 2 spares will be reserved for each orbital plate.
The new generation of Glonass-K satellites to be lauched starting 2011, benefit from an improved design that should increase their operating period (10 to 12 years), reliability, as well as smaller size and weight (750 kg) which would allow the replacement of the Proton-M launcher with the new Soyuz 2 (and almost a havling of the cost of lauch).
But until the release of this investment, the Russian leaderships want to see how the money is spent.
Satellites have been assured by the Sputnik Insurance Center company, in whose administration board are found sons of current and former head of Russian space agency Roskosmos. To avoid the acuses, and probably put under pressure, the insurance company has promised that there will be no problems in the payment of the isurance, but as with many other similar situations in the past there are a lot of legal issues that can be raised and potentially slow down the process. The investigation also revealed more serios problems. Nearly 50 years after Gagarin's flight, the Russian space program still suffers major management deficiencies: the Angara rocket is still at the design stage, Svbodnyy Cosmodrome is still not functional, already started projects suffer major delays and very little money are invested in new tehnology.
In a global market for navigation solutions estimated at 60-70 billion a year, Russia was aiming for a niche of 15% (9-10 billion dollars and more than the earnings coming from the weapon sales) but only managed to stay at 1% well below its expectations.