Astra 2G, scheduled for launch on November 28th, has been delayed, with Russia’s Roscosmos reporting a fault had been discovered on the Proton rocket’s Briz-M upper stage.
The delay is doubly unfortunate for owner SES as the satellite has been patiently waiting for its launch for some months. There have been concerns for the Russian-built Proton system following a spate of problems with the rocket, not least a May 16 failure when a similar rocket lost the Russian Express AM4-R satellite on launch.
The problems meant that Proton, having identified the problem, then had to launch a successful ‘proving’ flight to get the commercial side of the operation, organised by Washington-based International Launch Services, back in business. That happened on October 21 when a Russian AM6 satellite was “successfully” lifted into orbit. But that claimed success reportedly placed further questions on the rocket’s same upper stage which failed to deliver the satellite to its target orbit.
The last successful commercial flight was the launch of Turksat 4A back in February.
The reports say that Astra 2G has been safely stored while engineers replace the faulty giro control system on the rocket’s upper stage. Indications are that the delay will be no more than a week or two.
However, timing is key because the satellite is carrying an important specialised cargo in the shape of an X-band military transponder, as well as Ka-band transponders, on behalf of the Luxembourg government and these frequencies have to be brought into use prior to the end of this year.