The second launch from Russia’s new spaceport has failed

Flyaway

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On Tuesday morning, a Russian Soyuz 2.1b rocket lifted off on schedule from a new spaceport, carrying the the Meteor M2-1 weather and climate satellite, as well as more than a dozen secondary payloads. However, the satellite never reached its target orbit, more than 825km above Earth.

According to Russian media reports, the Fregat upper stage separated from the rocket about 10 minutes after launch, but then something went wrong. At least one of the two firings of the Fregat stage, which is used to insert satellites into their designated orbits, apparently did not happen. Russian space journalist Anatoly Zak reports that human error may have been involved, with an errant pre-programmed flight sequence. Roscosmos has since lost contact with the satellite.

This failure is troublesome for the Russian space program for at least a couple of reasons. This is the fourth failure of the versatile Fregat space tug, which has been in service for about two decades. All of the problems have occurred since 2009, when there have been problems with flight data, third-stage failures, and control system failures. In each of the cases, the satellite did not reach its desired orbit.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/11/the-second-launch-from-russias-new-spaceport-has-failed/

You can find more detail on the flight including the payloads aboard on the link below.

http://spacenews.com/contact-lost-with-satellites-after-soyuz-launch/
 

Flyaway

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Navigational error detailed by Anatoly Zack:

almost unbelievably, the flight control system on the Fregat did not have the correct settings for the mission originating from the new launch site in Vostochny, as apposed to routine launches from Baikonur and Plesetsk. As a result, as soon as Fregat and its cargo separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle, its flight control system began commanding a change of orientation of the stack to compensate for what the computer had perceived as a deviation from the correct attitude, which was considerable. As a result, when the Fregat began its first preprogrammed main engine firing, the vehicle was apparently still changing its attitude, which led to a maneuvering in a wrong direction.

http://www.russianspaceweb.com/meteor-m2-1.html#culprit
 

TomS

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That's a shockingly bad mistake to make, right up there with Lockheed's famous "metric or American units" mixup. I mean, the fact that the Fregate FCS needs to know the launch location with some degree of precision should be well documented, right?
 

Flyaway

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Some more details here.

Guidance error reportedly led to Russian launch failure

Russian officials could complete their investigation of a rocket failure Tuesday by mid-December, and multiple Russian news reports suggest the probe has narrowed to focus on the guidance computer on the Soyuz launcher’s Fregat upper stage.

Russia’s state-operated RIA Novosti news agency and the respected space website RussianSpaceWeb.com reported the Fregat upper stage made an unanticipated turn before starting its planned 77-second orbital insertion burn.

A programming error may have led the Fregat stage to attempt an unnecessary 360-degree maneuver, leaving the rocket in the wrong orientation for the engine firing, according to RussianSpaceWeb.com, a website run by Russian space journalist Anatoly Zak.

The website reported the Fregat’s guidance computer did not have the correct settings for a launch from Vostochny, a remote facility in Russia’s Amur region near the Chinese border. It was the second Soyuz launch from the new spaceport, and the first from Vostochny with a Fregat upper stage, which flew more than 60 times previously from other launch sites in Russia, Kazakhstan and French Guiana.

“As a result, as soon as Fregat and its cargo separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle, its flight control system began commanding a change of orientation of the stack to compensate for what the computer had perceived as a deviation from the correct attitude, which was considerable,” RussianSpaceWeb.com reported. “As a result, when the Fregat began its first preprogrammed main engine firing, the vehicle was apparently still changing its attitude, which led to a maneuvering in a wrong direction.”

https://spaceflightnow.com/2017/11/30/guidance-error-reportedly-led-to-russian-launch-failure/
 

Grey Havoc

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Navigational error detailed by Anatoly Zack:
From later updates to the article:

New details emerge on the Soyuz failure
coordinate

Coordinate system for the Soyuz family of rockets. Credit: Starsem​
The complex failure scenario of the second Soyuz rocket launch from Vostochny continued emerging in the days following the accident. Although the culprit had quickly been pinned down by flight control specialists, even seasoned space engineers, who were not directly involved in the intricacies of guidance systems, struggled to fully comprehend the bizarre nature of the accident.
In the Soyuz/Fregat launch vehicle, the first three booster stages of the rocket and the Fregat upper stage have their two separate guidance systems controlled by their own gyroscopic platforms. The guidance reference axis used by the gyroscopes on the Soyuz and on the Fregat had a 10-degree difference. The angle of a roll maneuver for rockets lifting off from Baikonur, Plesetsk and Kourou, which was required to guide them into a correct azimuth of ascent, normally laid within a range from positive 140 to negative 140 degrees. To bring the gyroscopic guidance system into a position matching the azimuth of the launch, its main platform has to be rotated into a zero-degree position via a shortest possible route. The ill-fated launch from Vostochny required a roll maneuver of around 174 degrees (which was apparently conducted from the 5th to 22nd second of the flight), and with an additional 10 degrees for the Fregat's reference axis, it meant that its gyro platform had to turn around 184 degrees in order to reach the required "zero" position.
In the Soyuz rocket, the gyro platform normally rotated from 174 degrees back to a zero position, providing the correct guidance. However on the Fregat, the shortest path for its platform to a zero-degree position was to increase its angle from 184 to 360 degrees. Essentially, the platform came to the same position, but this is not how the software in the main flight control computer on the Fregat interpreted the situation. Instead, the computer decided that the spacecraft had been 360 degrees off target and dutifully commanded its thrusters to fire to turn it around to the required zero-degree position. After the nearly 60-degree turn at a rate of around one degree per second, the Fregat began a preprogrammed trajectory correction maneuver with its main engine. Unfortunately, the spacecraft was in a wrong attitude and, as a result, the engine was fired in a wrong direction.​

Roots of the Vostochny accident analyzed

fregat

In the days following the November 28 accident, Russian space officials and the wider engineering space community also did some soul-searching on the underlining causes leading to the bizarre error during the launch. First of all, a number of experts, pointed out that the overall cause of the accident was a rare confluence of rotation angles within the gyroscopic system of the Fregat upper stage which had not been accounted for in the software of its onboard flight control computer. Such a confluence could only be generated by the particular navigational situation in Vostochny and had never been encountered during the previous 66 launches of Soyuz-2 rockets from Baikonur, Plesetsk and Kourou.

According to a post on the online forum of the Novosti Kosmonavtiki magazine, the Fregat stage for the ill-fated first mission from Vostochny was originally built for the launch of the Rezonans scientific satellites from Baikonur.

At the same time, experts agree that the problem could theoretically have been resolved before launch, if not for the poor coordination between the developers of the flight control systems of the Soyuz-2 launch vehicle and their colleagues working on flight controls for the Fregat. As one poster on the Novosti Kosmonavtiki forum noted: in the deluge of pre-launch paperwork between RKTs Progress in Samara, which built Soyuz-2, and NPO Lavochkin, which developed Fregat, discussing a multitude of legal issues, confirming and reconfirming various agreements and reminders, there was not a single memo attracting the developers’ attention to a different alignment of the launch pad in Vostochny from that of other sites. Obviously, such information was buried in the working documentation on the mission, but nobody thought about the effect of this fact on the launch. The lower echelon of engineers simply missed that detail, while top managers had no idea at all, because, the majority of them lacked the necessary qualifications, the poster said.
 

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