Worries over Astra 2G launch
By Chris Forrester

Astra 2G has already created more than enough anxieties when a Russian-built aircraft carrying the satellite to the launch site had to make an emergency landing 10 days ago. Now there are concerns over the Proton rocket due to launch the satellite on November 28th.

The fuelling of the rocket should have started by now but reportedly the craft’s insurers are asking questions about the October 22nd launch by a Proton of a Russian telecoms satellite.

Trade mag Space News quotes an insurance executive involved in the consortium providing cover for the launch as saying: “Underwriters’ faith in Russian hardware in general, and in Proton in particular, has been shaken,” one insurance official said. “I mean, after all, the last launch dropped the satellite 2,500 kilometers short of its destination.”

The overall worry is that despite the problems Russian officials shipped the Proton rocket to Baikonur site within days of the Oct 22 launch, and not having carried out any remedial actions. Back in May a Proton launch was a total loss.

International Launch Services (ILS) which was not responsible for the Octpber 22nd launch says that they are happy that that the launch was ‘nominal’. Space News also says that the Russian satellite (an Express-AM6 craft) is not going to arrive at its proper orbital position until next July. ILS added: “We are in the process of answering some additional questions from the customer and insurers, and we will continue to work with them until all questions are answered. The launch campaigns at Baikonur continue to proceed on schedule.”

The word from Russia is also positive. Alexander Shmygov, a spokesman for the Khrunichev research and production space center, told Interfax-AVN. “All work is going according to schedule,” Shmygov said . “A Briz-M upper stage to put the satellite into orbit was delivered to a fuelling station on Friday, and its high-pressure tanks are to be fueled on Saturday, Shmygov said.