Shrugging off Zenit Failure, EchoStar Books Sea Launch for 2015 Mission

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WASHINGTON — Satellite television provider EchoStar Corp. has contracted with launch services provider Sea Launch AG for the launch of an unnamed EchoStar satellite in 2015, EchoStar and Bern, Switzerland-based Sea Launch announced March 18.

Sea Launch is still recovering from a Feb. 1 launch failure that destroyed an Intelsat telecommunications satellite. Sea Launch President Kjell Karlsen said in a March 18 interview that the company is grateful for EchoStar’s vote of confidence as Sea Launch seeks to get to the bottom of the failure.

Karlsen said a preliminary report from the Russian and Ukrainian government investigation into the failure is expected to report its conclusions in a couple of weeks. Sea Launch then will convene its own failure review oversight board to review the findings and communicate with customers and insurers. That could be done by mid-May, Karlsen said.

Karlsen said the EchoStar contract, which is the exercise of an option signed a couple of years ago, is contingent on the successful completion of the oversight board’s conclusions.

Sea Launch operates the Zenit 3 SL rocket, of Russian and Ukrainian design, from a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean. The company specializes in launching heavy telecommunications spacecraft.