Russian heavy launcher Proton will return to work in September after being grounded following an after-launch explosion in July this year, Proton’s US-based commercial sales firm has announced this week.
The rocket crashed in a ball of fire on 2 July just seconds after lift-off, destroying three Russain navigation satellites aboard. The subsequent investigation revealed three angular sensors providing information about the rocket’s orientation had been installed upside down during the rocket’s assembly, resulting in incorrect information being fed into Proton’s on-board computers from the start.
According to the announcement made by International Launch Services, the next commercial launch of the rocket, which belongs to the world’s most important vehicles capable of propelling heavy communications satellites into Earth’s orbit, has been scheduled for 15 September.
The rocket will carry a communication satellite Astra of the Luxembourg-headquartered company SES. The satellite was delivered to Baikonur prior to the accident and its launch has been suspended during the investigation.
July’s explosion has been the fifth critical failure of the Proton rocket in the past five years resulting either in a complete loss of the satellites or placing them into wrong and useless orbits.
After the latest mishap, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered an investigation to find the cause of the Proton accident. International Launch Services, the Virginia-based company responsible for commercial Proton missions, established its own review board to study the results of the Russian state commission inquiry.