Today, punctually at 09:31:42 GMT, ExoMars mission started. Proton-M with Briz-M upper stage lifted off, with Schiaparelli EDM on atop, from Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site 200/39 in its second mission in 2016 and 411th in Proton launch vehicle history.

Cooperation between ESA and Roscosmos reached next milestone. Today from Baikonur Cosmodrome Proton-M rocket lifted Schiaparelli Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module (EDM) with Trace Gas Orbiter under ExoMars program. Mission has two objectives. First is gather data about presence of methane in Mars atmosphere by Trace Gas Orbiter. Second is testing of technologies necessary for landing on the Mars surface by EDM. These experiences will improve knowledge of European and Russian engineers before planned for 2018 mission of ExoMars rover.

Proton-M with ear-rending sound of six RD-253 engines started to lift off at 09:34 GMT. First stage was working correctly and after 2 minutes of flight first stage was shut down and second stage started to continue engine flight separately. Three RD-210 and one central RD-211 engines started to operate with full thrust of 2399 kN. Rocket at T+5’27” performed separation between second and third stage and at T+5’49” payload fairing was jettisoned. After 585 seconds of flight, at T+9’45” Briz-M upper stage was separated from the third stage and prepared for first burn. Its S5.98 (GRAU 14D30) engine started at T+11’16” for the first time. Remaining on parking orbit on altitude of 175 km, Briz-M started engine again at T+1h38’ to reach elliptical orbit and continued its ballistic flight. Next two burns of Briz-M will be performed in fourth and tenth hours of flight. Separation of EDM/TGO from Briz-M is planned for 20:12 GMT 5000 km from Earth.

Roscosmos utilized during ExoMars mission reliable and trusted Proton-M rocket. designed in the by Krunichev State Research and Production Space Center. Based on design of Proton-K, Proton-M was considered as its replacement but it was used simultaneously with Proton-K for 11 years. Proton-M has lot of common with its predecessor – 77% of parts are interchangeable, 18% are modernized and only 5% of parts were designed from the scratch. Proton-M remains in production since 2001 and until now it reached success ratio at 94% (2% more than Proton-K so it seems that changes were right). Rocket is liquid fueled with N2O4/UDMH which is also propellant for Briz-M upper stage. Rocket weighs 712800 kg with height at 58 m and diameter at 7.4 m. First stage is built with main oxidizer tank as base of construction. Around tank, six RD-253-14D14 engines, each with own fuel tank, were mounted; engines were equipped with 7° twirl range for thrust vector control and are providing 10532 kN of thrust. Due problems with remaining toxic fuel in tanks of the first stage, which were spilled in wide terrain around impact site, additional purge propellant system was installed and also increased thrust. Second stage is height for 14 m and is equipped with three RD-210 and one RD-211 providing thrust at 2399 kN and additional six solid fueled engines. They are fired during separation with third stage to reduce speed and help in avoiding collision of both stages. Third stage (long for 6.5 m) is equipped with RD-213 and RD-214 engines. They are combined in one RD-212 engine unit, where RD-213 is central motor and RD-214, equipped with four nozzles, is responsible for stabilizing rocket in flight. RD-212 is generating thrust at 613.8 kN. Stage is also equipped in solid fueled thrusters for reducing speed and minimalizing risk of collision with deployed payload or upper stage. Proton-M could be used with following upper stages: Briz-M is powered by one S5.98M with thrust at 19.6 kN, Blok-DM-2 powered by one RD-58 engine with thrust at 85 kN or Blok-DM-3 with one RD-58MFengine generating thrust at 79 kN

On picture above You can see scaled models of EDM on the left side and ExoMars rover on the right side.