Roscosmos Space Agency Recalls Briz-M Upper Stage Batch

The Russian space agency Roscosmos will recall the entire batch of Briz-M upper stages, one of which caused the launch of a Proton-M carrier rocket to fail in August, the agency’s chief Vladimir Popovkin said on Monday.

“The decision has been made to recall and thoroughly examine the entire batch of Briz-M upper stages,” Popovkin told journalists. “Each upper stage will be dismantled.”

Russia launched a Proton-M rocket with a Briz-M booster carrying the Telkom-3 and Express MD2 telecoms satellites from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan on August 6. However, the booster and the two satellites failed to reach the designated orbit.

Popovkin earlier said the failure had been caused by a fault in the Briz-M’s fuel pipe. A special commission looking into the causes of the failure said pressure in the upper stage had fallen sharply following the vehicle’s second engine burn, causing the Proton-M rocket to spin out of control.

“This is 100 percent a manufacturing defect,” the Roscosmos chief said.

Popovkin said the launches of Proton-M carrier rockets with Briz-M upper stages, suspended following the incident, will be resumed in mid-October.

Briz-M’s history dates back to July 5, 1999 when the first launch resulted in a malfunction of the Proton’s second stage, preventing the booster and its payload from reaching orbit. The first launch was followed by both successful launches and failures in the next few years.

In August 2011 the malfunction of a Briz-M booster led to the loss of the Express-AM4 telecommunication satellite.

Popovkin also said the reform of the Russian space industry is to be completed by 2016.


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