On August 18th a giant Russian Proton rocket failed to correctly launch an Express-AM4 satellite, placing the craft in a near-useless orbit, and with a probable $300 million insurance claim.
An investigation board was immediately set up and has now reported back with its findings. The examination says that the fault came from a badly programmed guidance sequence system. “This resulted in an off-nominal orientation of the Breeze-M and, as a consequence, in injecting the [Express-AM4] into an off-design orbit,” Roscosmos said in a statement.
As to the ‘lost’ AM4 satellite, ground controllers have not been able to communicate with it, and it will probably be declared a total loss.
Meanwhile, the Proton rocket system, including the Briz-M upper stage which gave the problems, has been cleared for new launches. Waiting in line for launch are SES’ QuetzSat, ViaSat and SES-4, all scheduled for launch by International Launch Services.