A few days ago it was apparently ‘confirmed’ that the incorrect fitting of key attitude velocity sensors was the “most likely” cause of the failed Proton-M rocket on July 2nd. Now it appears that is not the case.
A statement from Russian deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of Russia’s space industry, says that theory is a “red herring”, and that the sensors could not have been inserted wrongly. He said the devices were colour-coded and of different lengths and specifically designed so that they could not be inserted incorrectly.
Roscosmos spokeswoman Anna Vedishcheva had said on July 19th that at least three of six angular rate sensors had been incorrectly fitted.
Russia’s space agency Roscosmos is investigating the incident and has yet to formally publish its report. A separate study is being undertaken by International Launch Services (ILS) which takes care of ‘Western’ rocket launches on behalf of commercial satellite operators.
However, the July 2nd incident, and subsequent investigations, will mean that it is unlikely that more than five Proton missions will launch this year. Most officials are anticipating a restart in September, but this will be for government as well as ILS work. Some of these launches will be to the International Space Station, as well as Russian military missions.
SES’ Astra 2E is the first commercial launch standing in line, and it was due for launch on July 21st. Most industry observers now expect a ‘proving’ launch for Proton prior to any commercial activity.