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Russia fails again

PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2011 9:47 am
by spacesys
On 1st of February Russia made an attempt to launch another satellite into orbit. This one, named GEO-IK2, is the platform of a new GEO-IK generation of satellites used in both military and civil geodesic applications.
The first satellites have been launched since the existence of USSR. They weighed 1.5 tonnes with a lifetime of 1 to 2 years, flying on circular orbits at 1500 km, with two possible inclinations of the orbital plane – 73.6 degrees and 82.6 degrees. Launchings were made from Plesetsk space base, with Tsiklon 3 rockets. A total of 14 satellites were launched, 13 of which made it to the orbit (the first flight was a failure) with the last launch being made in 1994.

Just like the previous ones, the new generation of satellites is flying circular LEO orbits, but with different inclinations (because, for a global coverage, an inclination of 99.4 degrees is now used). The altitude also dropped to 1000 km.

The satellites which are now built by ISS Reshetnev (Information Satellite Systems Academician Reshetnev) on an Uragan-M platform are three axes stabilized, weigh 1.4 tonnes and are equipped with 3 scientific instruments:
• SADKO radar altimeter
• Laser retro reflectors
• GLONASS and GPS receiver

They will be capable, due to these instruments, to make measurements regarding Earth's shape, the evolution of the poles, the gravitational field and seismic activity. The results will be used, amongst others, in the creation of a better gravitational model, used in ballistic rockets' flight.
The launch took place Tuesday, 1st of February, using a Rockot KM rocket.
Rockot KM is a 2+1 stage rocket: a first stage powered by 3 RD233 engines and one RD234, a second stage powered by one RD235 and 4 RD236 engines and a third stage composed of a Breeze-KM ensemble, capable of flying 7 hours with 6 different injection maneuvers (corresponding to 6 “on-off” ignition sequences). Its performance of carrying 1950 kg in a LEO orbit or 1200 kg in a SSO one places it in the small international launchers class.
The rocket came into service in this configuration in 2000, as a derivation from the military version UR100N, and has made since then 15 flights. The flights are offered by Eurockot Launch Services at a price of 14 million dollars per launch.
The launcher was involved in another famous incident, in 2005, when ESA's first Cryosat mission was destroyed. The problems in that case appeared at a height of 200 km, because of a malfunction in the separation between stages two and three. Thus, the separation didn't occur, leaving the rocket in a ballistic trajectory. It disintegrated upon its entrance in the atmosphere at a speed of 5 km/s. The remains crashed some 100 km from the North Pole. After this incident, ESA gave up Rockot, replacing it with Dnepr.

Coming back to our article, being launched at 14:00 GMT from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, the rocket should have placed the satellite in the orbit after 90 minutes. In the flight sequence there were included two activations of the Breeze-KM module.
After the rocket separation, at 15:35 GMT, when the first telemetry was collected, the launch team found out that there was no signal coming from the satellite. At the same time, the USTRACK and Russian radars (activated after an emergency has been declared) located the satellite in an unexpected position. Apparently the second activation of the Breeze-KM engines was not long enough (under the theoretical 150 seconds), so the satellite was launched into an intermediary orbit 319 km x 1053 km x 99.46 degrees inclination against Equator, different from the Breeze module which was located into an 356 km x 993 km x 99.45 degrees orbit. This means the separation occurred.
Unfortunately, because it was a relatively small satellite which was designed for a short period of operation, the hydrazine reserve on board (less than 100 kg according to some sources) was not enough for an apogee burn maneuver, a reshaping of the orbit towards a circular one – which needed an additional speed of 150-200 m/s. This means that the satellite will never be placed in the designated orbit and, because of the mission goal, if another use for it will not be found, it will be most likely abandoned in space. In commercial terms, the mission can be considered a total failure, although there are some aspects which confirm the recent conclusions of the evaluation committee which has just finished its activity in the case of the December 2010 accident when three Glonass satellites were lost by the Russian Space Agency Roskosmos. According to these rumors, the Russian satellite used secret military technologies and because of this the insurance policy was partial and included compensations just for the launch complex destruction or for defects at the first stage of the rocket. In other words, if it is proven that the failure was caused by the Breeze-KM engine, the Russian Space Agency Roskosmos will not get any compensation. In this light, and after the last investigation, the position of the Roskosmos president Anatoly Perminov is seriously threatened.
The recently finished investigation, on the 5th December 2010 incident, when the Proton rocket, launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome, has carried three new Glonass satellites : Kosmos 2470, 2471 and 2472, found that the launcher exceeded with 1-1.5 tones the necessary quantity of Blok DM-03 oxidant, due to a serious error. Because of this overload, the final trajectory was wrong and caused the loss of the three satellites. This was possible due to a series of major deficiencies in the spaceflight preparation procedures.
As in the present case, political and corruption aspects were found, the loading being insured by Sputnik Insurance Center, in whose administration council are the sons of the Russian Space Agency’s leader. The investigation revealed more serious problems. After almost 50 years from Gagarin’s flight, the Russian space program suffers from major management deficiencies.
The Angara rocket is still in a project stage, the Svobodnyy cosmodrome is not open yet, the started projects are delayed and there is a lack of investments for new technology.
The worst case is actually the satellite navigation program Glonass, despite the large amounts of money invested. In a global market of navigation estimated at 60-70 billions of dollars yearly, Russia’s targeted 15% (that is 9-10 billions, even more than the weaponry sales), but it barely kept 1%, far under the expectations. Therefore it will be interesting to watch the evolution of the events and what other dismissals and changes will take place at the management level of the Russian Space Industry.

Credit: Roskosmos