Returning Sea Launch to flight

by Chris Bergin

The Odyssey Launch Platform returned to a hero’s welcome at Sea Launch’s Home Port before the weekend, following the January 30th failure of the Zenit 3SL attempted launch of the NSS-8 satellite. Now begins the long process of returning to flight operations.

The extent of the damage – shown in a series of photographs acquired this site – confirms that the Odyssey only suffered major damage to her flame deflector, but the platform will have to set sail once more for repairs to be completed.

**Sea Launch FAILURE Live Update Pages** – now over 110,000 reads since failure. Including new photos (see pages 60 and 61).

**Free WMV and DIVX videos of the failure from T-70 seconds to explosion** Free to all forum members (registration is free – we do not use your e-mail for spam, only to send you your forum password – which is automated). Section includes previous Sea Launch videos:  Sea Launch – XM-4 – Oct 30 and Sea Launch – Koreasat 5 – Aug 22.

The platform arrived back in California, accompanied by the port’s Fire Department boats, which welcomed Odyssey back by spraying their hoses into the air, a return that was a continuance of the solidarity and positive attitude that is being noted by the Sea Launch workforce.

As far as repairing the platform ahead of Sea Launch’s return to flight, it is believed that Home Port does not have the facilities to carry out the replacement of the flame deflector, which was blown off during the explosion of the failed Zenit 3SL.

While evaluations will continue for around a month, the flame deflector’s replacement will be a challenge. Not only is the steel bucket unique in its design, but the question remains as to which facility can carry out the fabrication and re-installation of the deflector back on to the former oil rig.

It was initially feared that the platform would have to sail across the pacific ocean, to a dry dock facility in Singapore, but due to the damage being less than feared, Odyssey may head north, to Vancouver, for an overhaul that would bring the platform back to being able to carry out launch operations.

As far as the Zenit 3SL, the investigation is continuing, focusing on the LOX tank which was believed to be the culprit of the failure. However, many potential items require evaluation before the findings are collated into an official report.

Those findings still require some work, following another week passing without the Atlas V being cleared from its current grounding – due to commonality between the Zenit 3SL engine and the Atlas V RD-180 – as the United Launch Alliance (ULA) insist on assurances that there are no risks involved with their vehicle.

Risks are commonplace with any launch vehicle, which was touched upon by Shuttle manager Wayne Hale last week, who noted that the Sea Launch failure was yet another reason why everyone involved with space flight have to continue to ‘keep their eyes on the ball.’

‘This is not a routine business – it’s a very difficult business,’ said Hale. ‘It takes a large amount of people paying an extreme amount of attention to detail to fly in space.

‘Any space vehicle is a complex vehicle. We’ve seen colleagues with other vehicles suffer setbacks recently and it reminds us that what we are doing is a dangerous business that requires a lot of work and we can never take our eyes off the ball.

‘So as we press forward this year, we must do it safely, we must do it professionally, and we must do it thoroughly. That’s the message I’ve had with our workforce and that’s the message I leave with you today.’

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