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Yamal-401 launch on Proton

Anatoly Zak, Spaceflight Correspondent
Dec 14, 2014, 23:05 UTC

10:46 UTC

MISSION SUCCESS! Yamal-401 separates from Briz-M, concluding the 400th mission of the Proton rocket since its introduction in 1965.

09:06 UTC

Briz-M started its fourth and final engine firing exactly on time!

04:40 UTC

Proton-M lifts off with Yamal-401 satellite. Credit: Roscosmos


04:20 UTC

Briz-M and Yamal-401 are now in a five-hour unpowered climb toward an apogee of a 383 by 35,670-kilometer orbit. A tilt of their orbit toward the Equator was reduced from 49.9 degrees to 47.6 degrees after the third engine firing. 

04:15 UTC

The telemetry accumulated onboard Briz-M during the flight out of range of ground stations and later downlinked to mission control indicates that the third engine cutoff and the jettisoning of the external tank took place 11 seconds ahead of schedule. (It is not an indication of a serious problem). 

04:10 UTC

Ground control confirmed that the third engine firing and the separation of the external tank had actually took place. 

04:07 UTC

Following the separation of the external tank, Briz-M and Yamal-401 will be making a five-hour unpowered flight toward an apogee (highest point) of their orbit. The vehicle will "see" an orbital sunrise during this phase of the flight.

04:00 UTC

The third firing of Briz-M's main engine should now be completed, sending Yamal-401 on a long passive climb. A doughnut-shaped external tank will be jettisoned 81 seconds after the engine cutoff. 

03:54 UTC

The third engine firing should boost an apogee (highest point) of Yamal-401's orbit to 35,670 kilometers away from Earth.

03:47 UTC

During the third maneuver, Briz-M and Yamal-401 will cross the Equator and pass a perigee (lowest point) of their orbit.

03:45 UTC

Briz-M should now initiate its third engine firing programmed to last for 18 minutes and 1 second. During the maneuver, the space tug will carry Yamal-401 across the South America from its Pacific Coast to the Atlantic Ocean.

03:34 UTC

As the Briz-M with Yamal-401 is approaching the time for the third engine firing, its flight control system should issue a command to open propellant valves. It should take place around 10 minutes before ignition of the main engine. Fuel and oxidizer tanks on Briz will be pressurized and it should orient itself into right position for engine firing.

03:25 UTC

3 hours 18 minutes after liftoff, Briz-M should fire its engine again for 18 minutes and 1 second. It will be 06:44 Moscow Time, 03:44 GMT Monday; 10:44 p.m. EST Sunday. 

01:53 UTC

During most of its daylight phase of the flight, Briz-M should enter rotation at a rate of about 3 degrees per second.

01:48 UTC

The main engine onboard Briz-M was cut off 14 seconds earlier than scheduled. (It does not indicate any major problem yet)!

01:47 UTC

Mission control confirms completion of the second engine burn onboard Briz-M.

01:44 UTC

Briz-M and Yamal-401 should now apporach an orbital sunrise and the space tug is programmed to orient the stack toward the Sun.

01:41 UTC

T+ 1 hour 25 minutes 23 seconds: The second engine burn onboard Briz-M is now scheduled to end, however ground control is yet to confirm the maneuver.

01:33 UTC

The second engine burn, which takes place on the night side of the Earth, should boost an apogee (highest point) of Yamal-401's orbit from 173 to 5,000 kilometers and tilt the plane of this orbit slightly from 51.5 degrees to 49.9 degrees. 

01:25 UTC

Ground controllers might have to wait for the confirmation of the successful maneuver when the spacecraft enters the range of ground stations.

01:23 UTC

T+1 hour 7 minutes 28 seconds: It is now time for the second engine firing onboard the Briz-M upper stage carrying the Yamal-401 satellite. The maneuver should last 17 minutes 55 seconds, as the vehicle crosses the Atlantic Ocean and North Africa at the end of its first revolution around the Earth.

00:42 UTC

The second engine firing is scheduled for Briz-M one hour and seven minutes after the liftoff. 

00:40 UTC

During its coasting (passive) flight without firing its main engine, Briz-M will orient the stack in the direction of the flight. 

00:38 UTC

Yamal-401 and Briz-M should now orbit the Earth in a 173-kilometer parking orbit with an inclination 51.55 degrees toward the Equator. 

00:34 UTC

Briz-M and its payload is going out of contact with ground control stations, as the vehicle crosses the Russian East Coast and goes over the Pacific Ocean.

00:33 UTC

First firing of the Briz-M stage is just four seconds off the mark, telemetry shows (Good result)!

00:31 UTC

Briz-M completes its first maneuver delivering Yamal-401 to an initial parking orbit:


00:29 UTC

Telemetry shows that Briz-M initiated its first maneuver within one second from planned time (Very good!)

00:27 UTC

T+11 minutes 16 seconds: Briz-M initiates its first engine firing that should last four minutes and six seconds and deliver Yamal-401 to an initial parking orbit.

00:26 UTC

T+9 minutes 42 seconds: Proton's third stage separates from the payload section, placing Briz-M stage with Yamal-401 satellite on a ballistic trajectory just short of orbital velocity (as planned). Fuel valves on Briz should now open in preparation for the first engine firing in around a minute and a half.

00:25 UTC

T+540 seconds: Everything is good during the operation of the third stage!

00:24 UTC



00:23 UTC

T+410 seconds: Third stage reported performing well.

00:22 UTC

Payload fairing spearates as scheduled!

00:21 UTC

T+5 minutes 27 seconds: Proton-M's second stages separates as scheduled.

00:19 UTC

T+170 seconds all good!

00:18 UTC

Second stage reported performing well!

00:18 UTC

T+2 minutes: Proton-M jettisons its first stage as it climbs uphill.

00:17 UTC

T+1 minute 2 seconds: Proton-M goes through maximum dynamic pressure.

00:17 UTC


00:16 UTC

400th Proton rocket lifts off from Baikonur carrying the Yamal-401 communications satellite!

00:15 UTC

One-minute readiness for launch!

00:14 UTC

Briz-M is ready for liftoff!

00:13 UTC

Proton is in three-minute readiness for liftoff.

00:11 UTC


00:10 UTC

T-5 minutes before liftoff. Everything is on track.

00:06 UTC

Weather at launch site in Baikonur: -11 to -13 degrees C (9-12 F); Wind speed: 4-7 m/s; Wind direction: Southeast. Everything looks good.

00:00 UTC

T-15 minutes before launch of Proton-M with Yamal-401. Everything looks good for liftoff.

23:55 UTC

T-20 minutes before launch of Proton-M with Yamal-401. Everything looks good for launch.

23:52 UTC

The rocket's payload fairing carries a logo of Gazprom, Moscow-based owner of the Yamal satellite (top) and the International Launch Services, ILS, which markets Protons to commercial customers around the world.

23:48 UTC

Live view of the payload section of Proton rocket with Yamal-401:


23:46 UTC

It is now half an hour before liftoff of Proton with Yamal-401. Everything looks good for launch.

23:44 UTC

During its journey to its destination, Yamal-401 will make two full revolutions around the Earth before climbing to the point, where its movement will match the rotation of the Earth, so it will appear hanging in the sky to a ground observer. 

23:37 UTC

During its nine-hour mission, Briz-M should perform four engine firings or "burns" before releasing Yamal-401 into its prescribed orbit. The Briz space tug conducts all its operations as a fully autonomous robot -- ground controllers can monitor its work but can do little to intervene.   

23:25 UTC

All eyes tonight will be on the operation of the Briz-M space tug. It is the fourth stage of the Proton rocket, which has a job of delivering the satellite from an initial parking orbit to a final altitude. Briz-M showed less than stellar performance in the previous Proton mission, leaving its cargo in a lower-than-expected orbit.

23:17 UTC

Few hours ago, the State Commission overseeing the launch of the Yamal-401 satellite, reviewed the status of all systems and cleared the Proton-M rocket for fueling before launch. 

Sen—Welcome to our live commentary on tonight's launch of the Russian Proton-M rocket with the Yamal-401 communications satellite for the nation's oil and gas giant Gazprom. The launch vehicle is reported in good shape for liftoff from Pad No. 24 at Site 81 in Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, right after midnight on Monday, December 15, at:

03:16:00 Moscow Time

00:16 UTC

19:16 EST (December 14)

For more details on this mission, please see this story