by Launchspace Staff
Bethesda MD (SPX) Feb 14, 2013
Sea Launch is currently a Russian spacecraft launch service that uses a mobile seagoing platform for direct equatorial launches of commercial payloads on Zenit 3SL rockets.
Since its inception there have been 31 launches, including three failures and one partial failure. The sea-based system operates out of Long Beach, California, but its launches take place from an equatorial spot in the Pacific Ocean. This location allows a minimal energy ascent-to-orbit for geostationary-bound satellites.
Sea Launch was originally established in 1995 as a consortium of four companies from Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States. The program was managed by Boeing with personnel participation from the other shareholders.
Its first launch took place in March 1999. Almost all of Sea Launch's commercial payloads have been communications satellites intended for geostationary transfer orbit. The launch vehicle and its payload are assembled in Long Beach on a specially outfitted ship, the "Sea Launch Commander."
Once assembled the vehicle is positioned on top of a self-propelled converted oil platform, the "Ocean Odyssey." Both the command ship and the platform sail some 4,828 km to an equatorial position at 154 degrees West Longitude, where final pre-launch operations and launch take place.
The travel time to the site is about 11 days for the platform and about eight days for the command ship.
Once the platform is ballasted to a depth of 22 m, the launch vehicle hangar is opened and the Zenit 3SL is mechanically moved to a vertical position. The launch platform crew members then evacuate to the command ship which steams about five kilometers away. Rocket stages are then remotely commanded to load propellants. The final launch sequence is then completed and launch takes place.
For a number of adverse business reasons, the Sea Launch service, Sea Launch Co. LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2009. Subsequently, Sea Launch emerged from bankruptcy in October 2010, and Energia Overseas Limited, a Russian corporation, became the majority owner of the reorganized entity.
In March 2000, the first Sea Launch failure occurred. This was the second commercial launch and the payload was a Hughes-built communications satellite owned by ICO Global Communications.
The cause of the failure was attributed to a software error that failed to close a valve in the Zenit's second stage. In January 2007, a second failure occurred. This time the Zenit 3SL exploded on the launch pad just seconds after engine ignition. The payload this time was the Boeing 702 NSS-8.
The latest failure occurred 11 days ago. This time the payload was Intelsat 27, a satellite based on the Boeing 702MP bus. WikiMiniAtlas
The loss of this big communications satellite is the first failure of a Sea Launch vehicle since the company emerged from bankruptcy protection. This event will make it more difficult for the launch provider to regain business momentum.
In fact, the company has no firm missions on its manifest beyond Intelsat 27. To further exacerbate the situation, quality-control and reliability issues have recently been raised regarding Russian launch hardware. Bethesda, MD
Launch Pad at Space-Travel.com
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