Proton Launch Failure Update: Culprit Found

Proton Rocket Failure Roscosmos Photo Credit Tsenki TV posted on AmericaSpace

Angular velocity sensors installed upside down may account for the July 1 Proton-M launch taking a nosedive. Photo Credit: Tsenki TV

It appears a likely culprit of the July 1 Proton-M launch failure has been discovered. In the first English-language report, Anatoly Zak of RussianSpaceWeb, relates that investigators combing through wreckage from the crash discovered that the angular velocity sensors known as DUS were installed upside down.

“Each of those sensors had an arrow that was suppose to point toward the top of the vehicle, however multiple sensors on the failed rocket were pointing downward instead,” says Zak. “As a result, the flight control system was receiving wrong information about the position of the rocket and tried to ‘correct’ it, causing the vehicle to swing wildly and, ultimately, crash.”

The unit was apparently installed by an inexperienced technician. “It appeared that no visual control of the faulty installation had been conducted, while electrical checks had not detected the problem since all circuits had been working correctly,” says Zak.

There may have been additional problems with the flight, since faulty installation of the DUS would not seem to explain the apparent engine fire at liftoff.

It now appears that the three GLONASS-M satellites that burned up with their launch vehicle were not insured. Russia has announced plans to launch two replacement satellites this fall from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

This article was written by Merryl Azriel and originally appeared in Space Safety Magazine. It can be reviewed here: Proton

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3 comments to Proton Launch Failure Update: Culprit Found

  • Dale Jacobs

    Yah shore, blame it on an inexperienced technician…. Up is THAT way fool! Dah… Speciva!

    Really? Hard to believe there are no redundant installation checks on this obviously complex mechanism. Hey Ivan, it’s called “quality assurance”.

  • […] Fortunately, the only casualties were three navigation satellites; no humans on the ground were injured. But it’s not the first time a Proton-M rocket has malfunctioned — it happened once in 2007 and again in 2010. So while we can’t be sure if we won’t see an accident again, at least one engineer has probably learned a very embarrassing lesson. [RussianSpaceWeb via AmericasSpace] […]

  • Rocketman

    Two words guys: phasing test.