Delta IV Heavy delayed due to weather; Proton-M successfully launches

The newest variant of the venerable Proton family, Proton-M, launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome yesterday, placing the Intelsat-31 commercial commsat into geosynchronous transfer orbit.  This was the first flight of the Phase IV Proton-M.  The launch was not perfectly ideal, as the second stage had one engine shut down prematurely (resulting in an impact short of the expected impact point), and the upper stage burned about half a minute longer than planned to compensate, and the initial parking orbit was a lower-energy orbit than originally intended.  The Briz-M appears to have compensated for this in its second and third firings, however, and the final orbit appears nominal.  Intelsat-31 will use its electric propulsion to finalize its orbit and then enter a commissioning period before it is ready to go into service.  It will provide television and data for customers in Latin America.

Then today, a Delta IV Heavy was due to blast off from KSC with a very heavy classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.  However, the notoriously fickle Florida weather got in the way and several hours into the launch window, the team was forced to scrub.  The launch has been reset for Saturday afternoon.



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