Spaceflight Now Home

Mission Reports

For 12 years, Spaceflight Now has been providing unrivaled coverage of U.S. space launches. Comprehensive reports and voluminous amounts of video are available in our archives.
Space Shuttle
Atlas | Delta | Pegasus
Minotaur | Taurus | Falcon


Sign up for our NewsAlert service and have the latest space news e-mailed direct to your desktop.

Enter your e-mail address:

Privacy note: your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose.


Space Books

Proton/Breeze M mishap blamed on warm propellant

Posted: February 14, 2013

Engineers blame the December launch failure of a Proton rocket and Breeze M upper stage on bearing damage from overheated propellant ingested into the Breeze M main engine, according to a statement issued Thursday by International Launch Services.

File photo of a Proton rocket being erected on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: Khrunichev
The Breeze M upper stage, burning hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants, was supposed to fire four times to inject the Russian Yamal 402 communications satellite in a high-altitude transfer orbit.

But the Breeze M stage prematurely shut down in the fourth burn, and investigators traced the cause of the Dec. 8 mishap to bearing damage on the oxidizer side of the Breeze M engine turbopump.

ILS said the Breeze M's nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer showed higher than previously recorded propellant temperatures at liftoff and higher than previously recorded thermal soak-back of engine heat, further raising the temperature of the oxidizer.

At the start of the Breeze M's third burn about three-and-a-half hours after liftoff, a large volume of oxidizer gas accumulated near the inlet to the main engine, exceeding the engine's design specifications, according to ILS.

The higher than expected temperatures caused the oxidizer to evaporate from liquid to gas.

"The volume of gas was ingested by the Breeze M turbopump at the start of the third burn, leading to over-speed of the oxidizer turbopump bearing without the cooling normally supplied by liquid oxidizer," the ILS statement said. "The over-speed damaged the bearing, which eventually led to the premature shutdown of the fourth burn."

The U.S.-based launch services provider, which is owned by Proton/Breeze M contractor Khrunichev, released more details of the Dec. 8 launch anomaly Thursday. The company issued high-level results of the investigation Tuesday.

The Yamal 402 satellite was deployed in the wrong orbit during the Dec. 8 launch, but the spacecraft reached its operational position a few weeks later.

Engineers plan no design changes to the Breeze M stage, but officials will improve management of both satellite and Breeze M thermal requirements to ensure adequate margin to prevent future recurrence of this anomaly, according to ILS.

ILS announced the next Proton/Breeze M launch is set for March 26, U.S. time, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The flight will launch the Satmex 8 communications satellite for Mexico's top satellite operator.

Final Shuttle Mission Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The crew emblem for the final space shuttle mission is now available in our store. Get this piece of history!

STS-134 Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The final planned flight of space shuttle Endeavour is symbolized in the official embroidered crew patch for STS-134. Available in our store!

Ares 1-X Patch
The official embroidered patch for the Ares 1-X rocket test flight, is available for purchase.

Apollo Collage
This beautiful one piece set features the Apollo program emblem surrounded by the individual mission logos.

Project Orion
The Orion crew exploration vehicle is NASA's first new human spacecraft developed since the space shuttle a quarter-century earlier. The capsule is one of the key elements of returning astronauts to the Moon.

Fallen Heroes Patch Collection
The official patches from Apollo 1, the shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews are available in the store.



© 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.