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Proton places satellite in wrong orbit
Posted: Sun, Dec 9, 2012, 11:34 AM ET (1634 GMT)
Proton before Yamal-402 launch (ILS) A Proton rocket launched a satellite for a Russian communications company on Saturday, but released the satellite prematurely and into the wrong orbit. The Proton M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 8:13 am EST (1313 GMT, 7:13 pm local time) Saturday carrying the Yamal-402 satellite. The rocket's Breeze-M upper stage was to release the satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit 9 hours and 15 minutes after liftoff, but according to International Launch Services (ILS) the Breeze-M ended the last of four engine firings four minutes early and separated the spacecraft into a lower-than-planned orbit. Khrunichev, the Russian company that builds the Proton, said in a statement that engineers are planning to use the spacecraft's thrusters to raise the satellite's orbit, although it is not clear by how much the spacecraft's operating life will be reduced as a result. The failure comes just four months after another Breeze-M malfunction stranded a pair of satellites in a transfer orbit; both were written off. The Yamal-402 satellite, built by Thales Alenia Space for Gazprom Space Systems, weighed 4,463 kilograms and is designed to provide communications services using 46 Ku-band transponders at 55 degrees east in GEO.
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