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GRACE Project Manager's Assessment: "This incident is unfortunate, but has no adverse implications for GRACE. Since only the fairing was damaged, the investigation will almost certainly result in a definitive finding on the cause of the failure. The revised plan for the pad demonstration launch should get us better data on the launch environments sooner".

Delay of ROCKOT Pad Verification Flight

Moscow / Bremen, 5th January 2000. Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, Russia and its daughter company EUROCKOT Launch Services GmbH, Germany have issued this joint press statement concerning the recent events with the ROCKOT launch vehicle in Plesetsk.

During preparations for the ROCKOT Pad Verification Flight scheduled for January 2000, a failure took place while launch vehicle integrated electrical tests were being conducted. The pad verification flight goal was intended to fully test the newly commissioned ROCKOT launch pad in Plesetsk prior to ROCKOT's entry into commercial service. The flight was to have used a ROCKOT equipped with a Breeze-K stage and small payload fairing to launch the Russian payload RVSN-40. This is the identical configuration of ROCKOT vehicle that has flown successfully three times previously from Baikonur. It features minor differences in configuration to the commercial version of ROCKOT which uses a Breeze-KM stage and a larger commercial payload fairing. As a consequence of this incident it has been agreed with Khrunichev to re-schedule the pad verification flight to March 2000 with a fully representative commercial version of the ROCKOT vehicle.

During standard processing the complete ROCKOT vehicle including its booster stage (stages 1 and 2), Breeze-K and Small Payload Fairing but without pay-load is stacked on the pad. Integrated electrical tests are performed on this complete assembly prior to de-stacking of the upper composite for fuelling and mating of payload. During these tests an inadvertent command caused separation of the payload fairing. As a result, the payload fairing was damaged beyond repair. This incident occurred on 22nd December at the Plesetsk ROCKOT launch pad, LC133, with the mobile service tower in place. The complete vehicle including Breeze-K upper stage was not fuelled. The vehicle has been subsequently de-stacked and its individual elements will be sent for additional tests and checks. It should be noted that no injuries occurred to personnel and no collateral damage was caused to the pad.

A state commission has been formed to investigate this incident and full details of the failure cause and corrective measures will be reported to customers and press by Khrunichev and EUROCKOT. In the short term, both companies are dispatching a team of experts to Plesetsk to obtain preliminary results of the investigation.

It has been agreed with Khrunichev to re-schedule the pad verification flight to end of March 2000 pending successful completion of the State Commission's investigations and conclusions into this failure. EUROCKOT will use this delay to accelerate the entry into service of the commercial version of the ROCKOT launch vehicle. Instead of a ROCKOT/ Breeze-K / Small Payload Fairing configuration, a fully representative commercial version of the ROCKOT vehicle will be used for the test flight. This commercial version features the updated Breeze-KM stage and the larger commercial payload fairing. It is identical in configuration to the subsequent commercial launches of ROCKOT. The vehicle will be fully equipped with satellite simulators and will be fully instrumented. The flight of this configuration enables both the original goals of the pad verification flight to be realised as well enabling a complete test of the newly configured vehicle, including launch environment assessments.

For more information contact:

EUROCKOT Launch Services
Peter Freeborn
Director Sales
Tel.: +49 421 539 6512

Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center
Mr Sergei Jiltsov
Chief of Public Relations Department
Tel.: +7 095 145 9082

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The GRACE mission is jointly implemented by NASA and DLR under
the NASA Earth System Science Pathfinder Program.

Last Modified: Mon Feb 16, 2004