Zenit-3SLB launches repaired MEASAT-3a into orbit

by Chris Bergin

Sea Launch have successfully launched their Zenit-3SLB launch vehicle, carrying the MEASAT-3a telecommunication satellite. The Land Launch branch of the multi-national company lofted the Orbital Sciences built satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Zenit-3SLB is derived from the Zenit-2SLB, and further modified from the Zenit-3SL used by Sea Launch for missions that launch from the Odyssey platform in the Pacific ocean.

The vehicle consists of a Zenit-2SB (Zenit-2M) core vehicle, with a Block DM-SLB upper stage and debuted on April 28, 2008, when it carried the Israeli AMOS-3 satellite into orbit.

Built by the world famous Orbital Sciences, MEASAT-3a is designed to expand capacity and in-orbit redundancy for MEASAT’s customers.

Orbital’s STAR-2 spacecraft platform carries 12 C-band transponders with coverage for the wide Asia-Pacific region. The satellite also carries 12 Ku-band transponders to serve direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting markets in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Zenit-3SLB launched the 2,366 kg (5,216 lb) MEASAT-3a spacecraft to geosynchronous transfer orbit, following a mission profile that included a two and a half minute first stage, and six-minute second stage burn.

Over the following hours, the Block DM conducted three burns, taking the spacecraft to a stable parking orbit. After a brief second burn, the upper stage coasted with the spacecraft for five hours, after which a third burn injected the spacecraft into a geosynchronous transit orbit.

Eleven minutes later, the spacecraft separated from the upper stage. Following spacecraft separation, a ground station in Uralla, Australia, acquired the first signals from MEASAT-3a in orbit.

Following orbital insertion, this satellite will be co-located with MEASAT-3 at 91.5 degrees East Longitude. It is designed for a 15-year service life on orbit and will generate approximately 3.6 kW of payload power.

“Congratulations to MEASAT and to Orbital, and to the entire Land Launch team for successfully completing this mission,” said Kjell Karlsen, president and general manager of Sea Launch. “This accomplishment represents the work of Space International Services, based in Moscow, and its collaboration with the Sea Launch partnership.”

“We would like to thank the entire Land Launch team, as well as those of Orbital and MEASAT, for their hard work and dedication which has led to the successful launch of the MEASAT-3a satellite today. On the completion of in-orbit testing, MEASAT-3a will provide a significant boost to our network capacity, allowing the continued expansion of our business across the wider Asia Pacific region,” added Paul Brown-Kenyon, COO, MEASAT.

The launch was delayed after the satellite suffered damage during pre-launch operations in Baikonur last year.

After a complex de-fueling and decontamination procedure, the satellite was shipped back to Orbital for repairs – via further decontamination at White Sands, New Mexico.

Orbital managed to fully repair the bird in time for the realigned launch today, much to the pleasure of MEASAT’s management.

“We have been working closely with Orbital Sciences on the repairs of the satellite,” said Dr Ali Ebadi, MEASAT’s Senior Vice President of Space Systems Development. “We are happy with the progress, and we look forward to seeing the satellite return to the launch site for a June 2009 launch.”

Operating three satellites, the MEASAT fleet is able to provide satellite capacity to over 145 countries representing 80 percent of the world’s population across the Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Australia. The fleet will be further enhanced with the launch of MEASAT-3a.

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