Sea Launch have finally returned to flight, with the lift-off of their Zenit-3SL launch vehicle, carrying the Thuraya 3 telecommunications satellite for the United Arab Emirates. Launch was at 11:49am GMT, with the satellite successsfully placed into its desired orbit.
NASASpaceflight.com covered the launch as a live event, with extensive background, live updates, images and a free launch video – available now – on the links below (read more).
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It’s been a tough 12 months for Sea Launch, following the failed launch which occurred with the NSS-8 communications satellite for SES New Skies, with the vehicle exploding on the launch pad, destroying both the vehicle and satellite.
A number of launch contracts were lost to their main rivals, most notably Intelsat’s Horizon 2 and Intelsat 11 launch deals, which moved to Arianespace.
The failure also caused fallout with United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V, which had to be cleared prior to the launch of STP-1, due to engine commonality. The Atlas V uses a RD-180 core stage engine, while the Zenit 3SL utilizes the RD-171, which share commonality via their manufacturer in Russia, NPO Energomash.
The failure was caused by a loose bolt, or metal shard in the LOX tank, which was ingested into the vehicle’s RD-171 engine’s turbopump, causing the vehicle to lose thrust as the vehicle was lifting off the Odyssey Launch Platform – which itself required extensive repairs.
The main repair effort focused on building and reinstalling the 280 ton replacement flame deflector, which was destroyed when the Zenit-3SL ‘fell through’ the launch platform.
Other completed work includes repair and installation of the platformâ€™s hangar doors and communication antennas, and replacement of heat-affected wiring and cables.
The launch was delayed from its orginal launch date late last year, before being postponed due to the weather at the pacific ocean launch site, although no issues had been worked with the vehicle.
Boeing designed and built the GEO-Mobile (GEM) spacecraft in El Segundo, California, for Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Company, based in the United Arab Emirates. Boeing also built, and Sea Launch successfully deployed into orbit, Thuraya-1 (October 20, 2000) and Thuraya-2 (June 10, 2003). The satellites are designed to provide a range of mobile voice and data services over large geographic regions.
With a designed lifetime of 12 years, the satellite will be positioned in Geosynchronous Orbit, 35,786 km (22,236 miles) above the Earth, at 98.5E orbital location. Once launched, Thuraya-3 will double Thurayaâ€™s current coverage by moving further towards Asia-Pacific to include major markets such as China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Australia
Lifting off from the Odyssey Launch Platform at 154 degrees West Longitude, a Zenit-3SL rocket will place the 5,180 kg (11,420 lb) Thuraya 3 satellite into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit, with the spacecraft separating from the upper stage at 1,388 miles above the Pacific Ocean. The flight plan calls for deployment into a 6.2 degree inclined orbit, an optimal orbital location for the Thuraya system.
Two-and-a-half minutes after lift-off, the first stage and then the payload fairing will separate. Six minutes later, the second stage will separate from the Block DM upper stage. After the first burn of the Block DM, the spacecraft will coast in a parking orbit for one hour, performing thermal maneuvers, such as a slow roll, to maintain a benign satellite environment.
Following this coast, the Block DM will burn a second time for about six minutes and then coast again until spacecraft separation, over the Pacific Ocean, north of New Zealand. Boeing is expecting to acquire a signal from the spacecraft at a ground station in Uralla, Australia.
Established in 1995, the Sea Launch consortium is owned by Boeing, Kvaerner ASA of Oslo, Norway, Yuzhmash of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, and RSC-Energia of Moscow.
Full mission background is available on the live event page – linked above.