Zenit Rocket Returns to Flight with Successful Launch of Israeli Satellite

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PARIS — A Russian-Ukrainian Zenit-3SLB rocket on Sept. 1 successfully placed the Israeli government/commercial Amos-4 telecommunications satellite into transfer orbit, marking the return to flight of the Zenit-3 vehicle following the Jan. 31 failure of its Sea Launch version.

Amos-4 prime contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) of Ben Gurion International Airport said Amos-4 was healthy in orbit and sending signals.

The launch, from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, illustrates the southern and eastern expansion of Israel’s commercial satellite operator, Spacecom of Ramat Gan. Spacecom’s Amos-4 will be operated at 65 degrees east after several months of testing at 67.25 degrees east, with coverage as far east as China and Southeast Asia.

Spacecom’s Amos-2 and Amos-3 satellites are co-located at the company’s core slot of 4 degrees west. Amos-5, launched in December 2011, is at 17 degrees east.

The 4,260-kilogram Amos-4 was built by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), with the communications payload manufactured by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy under contract to IAI.

The satellite is designed to deliver four kilowatts of power to its payload of eight Ku-band transponders at 108 megahertz each, and four Ka-band transponders at 216 megahertz each. It uses IAI’s Amos 4000 platform and is designed to operate for 12 years.

Amos-4 will provide coverage through steerable beams to a wide swath of territory including Russia, Central Asia, India, China, Southeast Asia and South Africa in addition to Spacecom’s home region of the Middle East and Europe.

Bern, Switzerland-based Sea Launch has been working to regain the market’s favors after the Jan. 31 failure from the company’s floating launch pad in the Pacific Ocean. The failure destroyed the Intelsat IS-27 satellite and resulted in a $400 million insurance payment to Luxembourg- and Washington-based Intelsat.

Amos-4’s sophisticated antenna design is one reason the satellite cost $365 million to build under a 2007 contract. Spacecom paid about $100 million of this, with the Israeli government paying the rest as an advance on future use of the satellite’s capacity.