On December 5th a Russian Proton rocket flight was catastrophically aborted when its Block DM-3 upper stage failed. The rocket was carrying 3 sat-nav satellites. The problem caused an immediate knock-on delay for other scheduled users of Proton, including Eutelsat’s massively important KaSat craft. A Board of Enquiry found that the upper stage had been over-filled with propellant, and thus added between 1000-2000 kilograms of unnecessary weight to the DM-3 stage.
Russia’s President Medvedev acted on December 29th, dismissing Vyacheslav Filin, first deputy general designer of RSC Energia of Korolev, Russia. Energia is the prime manufacturing contractor for the Block DM-3 stage. Also fired is Viktor Remishevsky, deputy boss of Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency. Anatoly Perminov, the head of Roscosmos, received a reprimand, according to the official announcement.
Other heads might still roll, said the president’s office.
As to the Eutelsat KaSat launch, it also used a Proton rocket, standing 58 metres high, but without the troublesome Block DM-3 upper stage. Eutelsat used the Proton M configuration which uses the tried and tested Breeze-M final stage. The rocket, and satellite, performed flawlessly during its December 27th launch and Ka-Sat will now undergo some months of in-orbit testing.
The end result should see a new era for Eutelsat Tooway clients keen to tap into the craft’s 70 gigabits per second overall broadband capacity. Eutelsat is targeting 700,000 users across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.