Another Russian Launch Failure: Sea Launch Zenit Rocket Fails at Launch

Another Russian Launch Failure: Sea Launch Zenit Rocket Fails at Launch

The Russian-Ukrainian Zenit-3SL Sea Launch rocket failed less than a minute after launch very early this morning, February 1, Eastern Standard Time (EST).   The Boeing-built Intelsat-27 communications satellite was destroyed.

Sea Launch provided few details, saying only that it will establish a failure review board.  Sea Launch uses an ocean-going platform as its launch pad and the rocket and payload fell into the ocean. The launch took place today, February 1, at 1:56 am EST, which was January 31, 11:56 pm Pacific Standard Time (PST).

Anatoly Zak at reported on his website and in tweets that a failure of the flight control system is suspected and cites industry sources as saying the rocket headed south instead of east at liftoff.  Its engines were shut down by an emergency command, Zak continues, and the rocket crashed into the Pacific Ocean 50 seconds after launch.

Sea Launch originally was owned jointly by U.S., Russian, Ukrainian, and Norwegian companies.   It declared bankruptcy in 2009 after a spectacular launch failure moments after liftoff in 2007.   Boeing was originally a 40 percent owner of the company, but as part of bankruptcy proceedings the company reorganized and now is 95 percent owned by Russia’s Energia RSC.  Boeing retains a very small share of the company and the Sea Launch platform and command ship continue to be based in Long Beach, CA.  The platform is towed out to sea for launch.

Russia has been experiencing a rash of space launch failures since the end of 2010.   This adds another to the list.



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