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On the launch pad.jpg
Proton-M rocket on the launchpad
Function heavy lift launch vehicle
Manufacturer Khrunichev
Country of origin Russia
Height 58 metres (190 ft)
Diameter 7.4 metres (24 ft)
Mass 712,800 kilograms (1,571,500 lb)
Stages 3 or 4
Payload to
22,000 kilograms (49,000 lb)
Payload to
GTO (Briz-M)
6,700 kilograms (14,800 lb)
Payload to
GSO (Briz-M)
3,500 kilograms (7,700 lb)
Associated rockets
Family Universal Rocket
Launch history
Status Active
Launch sites Baikonur Sites 81 & 200
Total launches 115 [1]
Successes 105
Failures 7
Partial failures 3
First flight 7 April 2001[2]
First Stage
Length 21 metres (69 ft)
Diameter 7.4 metres (24 ft)
Empty mass 31,000 kilograms (68,000 lb)
Gross mass 450,400 kilograms (993,000 lb)
Engines 6 RD-253-14D14
Thrust 10,532 kilonewtons (2,368,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 285 sec
Burn time 108 seconds
Fuel N2O4/UDMH
Second Stage - 8S811K
Length 14 metres (46 ft)
Diameter 4.15 metres (13.6 ft)
Empty mass 11,715 kilograms (25,827 lb)
Gross mass 167,828 kilograms (369,997 lb)
Engines 4 RD-0210
Thrust 2,399 kilonewtons (539,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 327 sec
Burn time 206 seconds
Fuel N2O4/UDMH
Third Stage
Length 6.5 metres (21 ft)
Diameter 4.15 metres (13.6 ft)
Empty mass 4,185 kilograms (9,226 lb)
Gross mass 50,747 kilograms (111,878 lb)
Engines 1 RD-0212
Thrust 613.8 kilonewtons (138,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 325 sec
Burn time 238 seconds
Fuel N2O4/UDMH
Fourth Stage (optional) - Briz-M
Length 2.61 metres (8 ft 7 in)
Diameter 4.10 metres (13.5 ft)
Empty mass 2,370 kilograms (5,220 lb)
Gross mass 22,170 kilograms (48,880 lb)
Engines 1 S5.98M
Thrust 19.6 kilonewtons (4,400 lbf)
Specific impulse 326 sec
Burn time 3000 seconds
Fuel N2O4/UDMH
Fourth Stage (optional) - Blok DM-2
Engines 1 RD-58M
Thrust 85 kilonewtons (19,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 352 sec
Fuel RP-1/LOX
Fourth Stage (optional) - Blok DM-03
Engines 1 RD-58MF
Fuel RP-1/LOX

The Proton-M, (Протон-М) GRAU index 8K82M or 8K82KM, is a Russian heavy lift launch vehicle derived from the Soviet-developed Proton. It is built by Khrunichev, and launched from sites 81 and 200 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Commercial launches are marketed by International Launch Services (ILS), and generally use Site 200/39. The first Proton-M launch occurred on 7 April 2001.

Vehicle description[edit]

Proton-M rollout

The Proton-M features modifications to the lower stages to reduce structural mass, increase thrust, and fully utilise propellants. A closed-loop guidance system is used on the first stage, which allows more complete consumption of propellant. This increases the rocket's performance slightly compared to previous variants, and reduces the amount of toxic chemicals remaining in the stage when it impacts downrange. It can place up to 21 tonnes (46,000 lb) into low Earth orbit. With an upper stage, it can place a 3 tonne payload into geosynchronous orbit, or a 5.5 tonne payload into geosynchronous transfer orbit. Efforts were also made to reduce dependency on foreign component suppliers.

Most Proton-M launches have used a Briz-M upper stage to propel the spacecraft into a higher orbit. Launches have also been made with Blok-DM upper stages: six launches were made with the Blok DM-2 upper stage carrying GLONASS spacecraft, while two further GLONASS launches have used the Blok DM-03.[3] The DM-03 will be used for a total of five launches; a further GLONASS launch is planned along with two launches of Ekspress satellites. As of 2013, no Proton-M launches have been made without an upper stage, however this configuration is manifested to launch the Multipurpose Laboratory Module and European Robotic Arm of the International Space Station, currently scheduled to be launched together in 2016.

Proton-M Enhanced[edit]

On 7 July 2007, International Launch Services launched the first Proton-M Enhanced rocket, which carried the DirecTV-10 satellite into orbit. This was the 326th launch of a Proton, the 16th Proton-M/Briz-M launch, and the 41st Proton launch to be conducted by ILS.[4] It features more efficient first stage engines, updated avionics, lighter fuel tanks and more powerful vernier engines on the Briz-M upper stage, and mass reduction throughout the rocket, including thinner fuel tank walls on the first stage, and use of composite materials on all other stages. The second launch of this variant occurred on 18 August 2008, and was used to place Inmarsat 4 F3 into orbit. The baseline Proton-M was retired in November 2007, in favour of the Enhanced variant.

Frank McKenna, CEO of ILS, has indicated that in 2010 the Phase III Proton design would become the standard ILS configuration, with the ability to lift 6.15 tonnes to GTO.[5]

October 19, 2011 Viasat-1 weighing 6.740 tonnes has been lifted into geostationary transfer orbit by the Proton-M/Briz-M Phase III.[6]


Proton-M in assembly building awaiting for rollout

As of May 2014, nine Proton-M launches have failed. Three of these failures were the results of problems with the Proton-M itself, five were caused by the Briz-M upper stage malfunctioning and leaving cargo in a useless orbit, and one was the result of a Blok DM-03 upper stage being incorrectly fuelled, leaving the Proton too heavy to achieve orbit.

In September 2007, a Proton-M/Briz-M rocket carrying Japan's JCSAT-11 communications satellite failed to achieve orbit, and fell in the Ulytau District of Kazakhstan. An investigation determined that first and second stages of the rocket had failed to separate, due to a damaged pyrotechnic cable.[7]

In July 2013, a Proton-M/DM-03 carrying three GLONASS satellites failed shortly after liftoff.[8] The booster began pitching left and right along the vertical axis within a few seconds of launch. Attempts by the onboard guidance computer to correct the flight trajectory failed and ended up putting it into an unrecoverable pitchover. The upper stages and payload were stripped off 24 seconds after launch due to the forces experienced followed by the first stage breaking apart and erupting in flames. Impact with the ground occurred 30 seconds after liftoff.

The preliminary report of the investigation indicated that three of the first stage angular velocity sensors, responsible for yaw control, were installed in an incorrect orientation. As the error affected the redundant sensors as well as the primary ones, the rocket was left with no yaw control, which resulted in the failure.[9] Telemetry data also indicated that a pad umbilical had detached prematurely, suggesting that the Proton may have launched several tenths of a second early, before the engines reached full thrust.

In May 2014, another Proton-M launch ended in failure, resulting in the loss of an Ekspress telecommunications satellite. Unlike the 2013 disaster, this occurred more than nine minutes into the flight when one of the third stage verniers shut off, causing loss of attitude control. An automatic shutdown and destruct command was issued and the remains of the upper stages and payload landed in northern China. An investigation committee concluded that the failure was most likely due to one of the turbopumps breaking off its mount, rupturing a propellant line and causing the vernier to lose thrust.

Although other Proton-M launches are recorded as failures, these failures have been caused by the upper stages used to allow the rocket to deliver payloads to higher orbits. On 5 December 2010, the upper stage and payloads failed to reach orbital velocity due to overloading of the upper stage with 1.5 tonnes of liquid oxygen, resulting in the loss of three GLONASS satellites it was carrying.[10]

Five launches have succumbed to problems with the Briz-M upper stage; Arabsat 4A in February 2006, AMC-14 in March 2008, Ekspress-AM4 in August 2011, Telkom 3 and Ekspress-MD2 in August 2012[11] and Yamal 402 in December 2012. All of the payloads were unusable except for Yamal 402, which was able to correct its orbit at the expense of several years' operational life, and AMC-14 which was sold to the US Government after SES determined that it couldn't complete its original mission.

Effect on government and industry[edit]

As a result of the July 2013 Proton M launch, a major reorganization of the Russian space industry was undertaken. The United Rocket and Space Corporation was formed as a joint-stock corporation by the government in August 2013 to consolidate the Russian space sector. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said "the failure-prone space sector is so troubled that it needs state supervision to overcome its problems."[12] Three days following the failure, the Russian government had announced that "extremely harsh measures" would be taken "and spell the end of the [Russian] space industry as we know it."[13]


Environmental impact[edit]

Critics claim that Proton rocket fuel (unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH)) and debris created by Russia's space programme is poisoning areas of Russia and Kazakhstan. Residents claim that acid rain falls after some launches. Anatoly Kuzin, deputy director of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, has however denied these claims, saying: "We did special research into the issue. The level of acidity in the atmosphere is not affected by the rocket launches [and] there is no data to prove any link between the illnesses [in Altai] and the influence of rocket fuel components or space activity of any kind".[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Another Disaster for Russia’s Space Workhorse, Popular Mechanics, 16 May 2014, accessed 16 May 2014.
  2. ^ McDowell, Jonathan. "Proton". Orbital and Suborbital Launch Database. Jonathan's Space Page. 
  3. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "Proton". Gunter's Space Page. 
  4. ^ "DIRECTV 10". ILS. 
  5. ^ "ILS Reaps Reward of Khrunichev Takeover". Satellite Finance. December 2009. 
  6. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "ViaSat 1". Gunter's Space Page. 
  7. ^ Zak, Anatoly (6 September 2007). "Proton/JCSAT-11 launch failure". RussianSpaceWeb. Retrieved 29 July 2013. 
  8. ^ "Russian Proton-M rocket crashes on takeoff". July 2, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Russia's Proton crashes with a trio of navigation satellites". RussianSpaceWeb. July 9, 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  10. ^ "Russia clears Proton to resume flying in December". Spaceflight Now. December 10, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Russian rocket fails to reach target orbit". August 7, 2012. 
  12. ^ Messier, Doug (2013-08-30). "Rogozin: Russia to Consolidate Space Sector into Open Joint Stock Company". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2013-08-31. 
  13. ^ Nilolaev, Ivan (2013-07-03). "Rocket failure to lead to space industry reform". Russia Behind The Headlines. Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  14. ^ "Russians say space rocket debris is health hazard". BBC. Retrieved August 7, 2012.