Spaceflight Now: Proton launch report


BY JUSTIN RAY

November 30, 2000 -- Follow the countdown and launch of the Proton rocket launching the Sirius 3 spacecraft for Sirius Satellite Radio. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.

2249 GMT (5:49 p.m. EST)

SPACECRAFT SEPARATION CONFIRMED! The Sirius 3 satellite has been delivered into orbit today by the Proton rocket. Ground controllers have already established contact with the craft, confirming its health following the launch.

Sirius 3 is the third and final member of the Sirius Satellite Radio constellation that will provide 100 channels of music, news, sports and business programming directly to automobiles of subscribers across the United States beginning early next year. The service will cost $9.95 per month plus the special receiver to get the satellites' signals.

This was the sixth and final International Launch Services Proton launch of 2000. It was the 14th Proton mission overall this year including Russian government launches. One more government launch is possible in December when the inaugural Proton M vehicle with its Breeze M upper stage is flown.

2014:47 GMT (3:14:47 p.m. EST)

T+plus 15 minutes. The Block DM upper stage has entered a coast period in its parking orbit around Earth with the attached Sirius 3 satellite.

At T+plus 43 minutes, 50 seconds the first of two firings by the Block DM is scheduled to boost Sirius 3 to toward its intended elliptical orbit around Earth. The second firing is planned at T+plus 2 hours, 3 minutes and 17 seconds.

Separation of Sirius 3 to complete this launch is expected at T+plus 2 hours, 25 minutes and 10 seconds, or 2225 GMT (5:25 p.m. EST).

We will pause our coverage at this time. Check back for confirmation of spacecraft separation later this evening.

2010:47 GMT (3:10:47 p.m. EST)

T+plus 11 minutes. Launch officals report the Block DM upper stage with Sirius 3 has arrived in the planned low-altitude parking orbit around Earth where the vehicle will coast for the next 32 minutes.

2009:57 GMT (3:09:57 p.m. EST)

T+plus 10 minutes, 10 seconds. Confirmation of third stage engine shutdown and the spent stage has separated. The Block DM upper stage and attached Sirius 3 spacecraft are now flying on their own.

2008:47 GMT (3:08:47 p.m. EST)

T+plus 9 minutes. Less than a minute left in the third stage burn.

2007:47 GMT (3:07:47 p.m. EST)

T+plus 8 minutes. The Proton continues right down the planned trajectory.

2007:17 GMT (3:07:17 p.m. EST)

T+plus 7 minutes, 30 seconds. Altitude is 181 km, downrange distance 1,180 km.

2006:47 GMT (3:06:47 p.m. EST)

T+plus 7 minutes. Normal reports coming from the third stage main engine.

2005:57 GMT (3:05:57 p.m. EST)

T+plus 6 minutes, 10 seconds. Officials have confirmed separation of the rocket's payload fairing that enclosed the Sirius 3 spacecraft during the atmospheric ascent.

2005:47 GMT (3:05:47 p.m. EST)

T+plus 6 minutes. Successful separation of the spent second stage has occurred and the Proton's third stage has ignited.

2004:47 GMT (3:04:47 p.m. EST)

T+plus 5 minutes. About a half-minute left in the second stage burn.

2003:47 GMT (3:03:47 p.m. EST)

T+plus 4 minutes. Second stage performance reported stable. Flight of the Proton rocket is still reported nominal with proper pitch, yaw and roll control of the vehicle.

2002:47 GMT (3:02:47 p.m. EST)

T+plus 3 minutes. Downrange distance 130 km, altitude 76 km as the second stage continues to burn. No problems have been reported.

2002 GMT (3:02 p.m. EST)

T+plus 2 minutes, 40 seconds. Altitude is 60 km, downrange distance 85 km.

2002 GMT (3:02 p.m. EST)

T+plus 2 minutes, 20 seconds. The four RD-0210 second stage engines have ignited and the spent first stage has dropped away. Good staging confirmed.

2001 GMT (3:01 p.m. EST)

T+plus 90 seconds. Downrange distance 10 km. First stage engines continue to fire.

2000 GMT (3:00 p.m. EST)

T+plus 60 seconds. Proton is approaching maximum dynamic pressure of about 800 pounds per square foot. Altitude is 6 km. All systems reported to be operating normally.

2000 GMT (3:00 p.m. EST)

T+plus 30 seconds. The Proton rocket has made its roll maneuver to achieve the proper launch heading. All six RD-253 first stage liquid-fueled engines are firing.

2000 GMT (3:00 p.m. EST)

T+plus 15 seconds. Rocket is stable as it blasted into the night sky.

1959:47 GMT (2:59:47 p.m. EST)

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of the Proton rocket, completing the Sirius Satellite Radio constellation with the third digital audio broadcasting spacecraft.

1958:47 GMT (2:58:47 p.m. EST)

T-minus 1 minute. The engine start command will be issued by the launch sequencer at T-minus 2.5 seconds. The six first stage engines will be ignited at T-minus 1.6 seconds and commanded to 40 percent thrust. The thrust level is then increased to 100 percent at T-0 seconds. The liftoff confirmation is expected at T+0.57 seconds.

This engine start sequence allows for verification that all six powerplants are running normally before committing the Proton to launch.

1958:17 GMT (2:58:17 p.m. EST)

T-minus 90 seconds. The Block DM is confirmed ready for launch. All systems are go.

1957:47 GMT (2:57:47 p.m. EST)

T-minus 2 minutes and counting. The Block DM upper stage readiness for flight now being verified. The rocket's first three stages and Sirius 3 spacecraft remain "go" for launch. No problems have been reported during the final countdown to liftoff.

1955:47 GMT (2:55:47 p.m. EST)

T-minus 4 minutes and counting. The enable key of the launch sequencer is being turned to the "on" position as the countdown continues to liftoff at 1959:47.

1954:47 GMT (2:54:47 p.m. EST)

T-minus 5 minutes and counting. The Proton rocket's first three stages -- which comprise the "core vehicle" -- are being checked for final confirmation they are ready for launch. Also, the air purge inside the rocket's nose cone is being configured for liftoff.

1951:47 GMT (2:51:47 p.m. EST)

T-minus 8 minutes and counting. The Proton rocket weighs 1,719,606 pounds as it sits on the launch pad. The Sirius 3 spacecraft accounts for 8,377 pounds of the weight.

1949:47 GMT (2:49:47 p.m. EST)

T-minus 10 minutes and counting. Now inside the final 10 minutes to liftoff of the International Launch Services Proton rocket. This will be ILS' 19th Proton mission dating back to 1996. All but one of the previous launches have been successful. It also marks the 14th Proton of 2000 and 6th for ILS. Overall this will be 284th Russian Proton rocket extending back to 1965.

1944:47 GMT (2:44:47 p.m. EST)

T-minus 15 minutes and counting. Loading of propellants into the Proton rocket began about six hours ago, and retraction of the 70-meter tall mobile service structure enclosing the vehicle at the pad occurred at T-minus 70 minutes and was completed about 25 minutes later.

1939:47 GMT (2:39:47 p.m. EST)

T-minus 20 minutes and counting. Liftoff of the Sirius 3 satellite still on target for 1959:47 GMT.

The Sirius 3 spacecraft being launched will be the third in Sirius Satellite Radio's constellation. It will operate in a egg-shaped orbit ranging from 14,900 miles at the low point to 29,200 miles at the high end, inclined 63.4 degrees.

The craft will join Sirius 1 launched in June and Sirius 2 deployed in September to provide 100 channels of digital radio to subcribers across the United States.

Here is a look at the orbital parameters of the Sirius constellation:

Inclination 63.4 deg, 0.5 deg
Eccentricity 0.2684 0.005
Orbit Period ~24 Hours
Relative Phasing 8.0 Hr 10 minutes
Semi-Major Axis 42,164 km
Pedigree Radius 24,469 km
Apogee Radius 47,102 km
RAAN 45.0 deg, 165.0 deg, 285.0 deg
Argument of Perigee 270.0 deg 0.5 deg
Apogee Longitude 96.0 deg W 0.5 deg
Mean Anomaly Y deg Y-120.0 deg, Y-290.0 deg

1934:47 GMT (2:34:47 p.m. EST)

T-minus 25 minutes and counting.

1926:47 GMT (2:26:47 p.m. EST)

T-minus 33 minutes and counting. The countdown continues on schedule for today's launch of the Proton and Sirius 3.

The Proton rocket's first three stages that make up the core vehicle will power the Block DM upper stage and attached spacecraft into a 170-km parking orbit some 9 minutes, 49 seconds after the launch.

The Block DM will conduct the first of two firings at T+plus 43 minutes, 50 seconds to begin the journey into the desired orbit for Sirius 3. The burn will last about six minutes.

A second burn is planned at T+plus 2 hours, 3 minutes, 17 seconds to completed the powered phase of today's launch. The second Block DM firing is expected to last just under two minutes.

Separation of Sirius 3 from the Block DM will occur 2 hours, 25 minutes, 10 seconds after liftoff.

1919:47 GMT (2:19:47 p.m. EST)

T-minus 40 minutes and counting. The launch team reports there are no technical problems being worked at the Baikonur Cosmodrome and weather conditions are acceptable for today's liftoff.

1915 GMT (2:15 p.m. EST)

Good day and welcome to our live coverage of today's launch of the Proton rocket and the third Sirius Satellite Radio spacecraft. The rocket is fueled and the spacecraft is being readied for launch at 2:59:47 p.m. EST. Tune into our live Webcast.

The countdown is under computer sequencer control through the remaining time until liftoff. Also, the launch team has provided the final updates to the rocket's guidance computer for today's mission.

1900 GMT (2:00 p.m. EST)

It is launch day for the Proton rocket carrying the Sirius 3 digital radio broadcasting satellite. Live countdown updates and launch coverage will begin at 2:15 p.m. EST.

0501 GMT (12:01 a.m. EST)

The final digital broadcasting spacecraft that will complete the orbiting network for Sirius Satellite Radio is scheduled for launch Thursday aboard a Russian Proton rocket from Central Asia.

The Sirius 3 satellite will be carried into a highly elliptical, highly inclined orbit around Earth following a two-hour, 25-minute flight of the four-stage Proton/Block DM rocket. Liftoff is set to occur at precisely 1959:47 GMT (2:59:47 p.m. EST) from Complex 81's pad 23 at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Proton's mission is managed by International Launch Services -- the joint venture between Lockheed Martin, Khrunchiev and Energia formed in 1995 to market the American Atlas and Russian Proton rockets. This will be the sixth Proton flight for ILS in 2000 and 19th overall.

New York City-based Sirius Satellite Radio is expecting to be the first such company to market digital audio programming directly to automobiles outfitted with special receiving antennas to pick up 100 channels of music, news, sports and entertainment through its fleet of three spacecraft. The first two Sirius satellites were launched aboard Proton rockets in June and September, respectively.

The Sirius service will be available to customers in across the continental United States for a monthly subscription of $9.95 starting early next year.

Such a radio broadcasting system promises to provide seamless, coast-to-coast coverage across the U.S. so that a customer could drive from New York to California and from Chicago to New Orleans and never lose the Sirius satellite signal, the company says.

The satellites are being strategically placed in egg-shaped orbits looping from 14,900 miles at the low point to 29,200 miles at the high end, inclined 63.4 degrees to either side of the equator. The satellites will be spread apart such that two are always in view of the U.S., and as one sets another one rises.

The orbit is unusual for a commercial communications satellites. Normally such satellites fly in circular geostationary orbit 22,300 miles high where the craft can match the Earth's spin and "park" over one spot of the globe.

But since Sirius aims to reach cars driving on the road with man-made and natural obstacles blocking the view to satellites flying above the equator, the special orbit plan was needed. Potential roadblocks are anything from a two-story building to tractor-trailers driving next to you.

Spaceflight Now will provide continuous live status reports during the final countdown and launch on this page. In addition, we will offer a live QuickTime streaming video broadcast starting at 1915 GMT (2:15 p.m. EST).

Video vault
The International Launch Services Proton rocket lifts off with the Sirius 3 digital radio broadcasting satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
  PLAY (370k, 34sec QuickTime file)
The first stage of the Proton rocket separates as the second stage ignites while boosting the Sirius 3 satellite into orbit. Source video: ILS (236k, 21sec QuickTime file).
  PLAY (236k, 21sec QuickTime file)
Watch the planned sequence of events as the Proton rocket carries the Sirius 3 digital radio broadcasting satellite into orbit.
  PLAY (718k, 1min 41sec QuickTime file)

Flight data file
Vehicle: Proton/Block DM
Payload: Sirius 3
Launch date: Nov. 30, 2000
Launch window: 1959:47 GMT (2:59:47 p.m. EST)
Launch site: LC 81, Pad 23, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

Pre-launch briefing
Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.

Proton - Description of the Russian-made rocket used in this launch.

Sirius - Learn more about the Sirius Satellite Radio system, the spacecraft and orbits.

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