Sea Launch Lofts First Satellite in More than a Year
PARIS — A Russian-Ukrainian Sea Launch-3SL rocket on May 26 successfully placed the 3B commercial telecommunications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit, a return to flight some 15 months after a spectacular failure that destroyed an satellite.
Operating from its floating platform located at 154 degrees west longitude on the equator in the Pacific Ocean, Sea Launch’s three-stage Zenit-3SL deposited the 5,967-kilogram Eutelsat 3B into a transfer orbit after two burns of its Block DM upper stage.
Eutelsat said the satellite was in good health and sending signals from its transfer orbit, and that it will undergo a series of tests before entering service in July.
For Sea Launch AG of Nyon, Switzerland, the launch arrives at a time Russia’s principal heavy-lift rocket, the Proton M/Breeze M, remains grounded following a still-unexplained failure of its third stage that destroyed a large Russian telecommunications satellite.
Sea Launch officials said they hope the successful flight will partly erase the memory of the February 2013 failure of their own rocket and position Sea Launch to win new business.
Industry officials have said it is likely that even if Proton returns to flight in relatively short order, as it has done following past failures, its crowded manifest is likely to force several months of launch delays for its customers. It is here that Sea Launch hopes to play a role.
Sea Launch officials have said they have an available rocket that could be ready for launch by late this year or early in 2015.
Eutelsat 3B, a Eurostar 3000 platform built by Airbus Defence and Space, will operate at 3 degrees east with a mixed C-, Ku- and Ka-band payload and 10 antennas operating up to 51 transponders. Eutelsat is targeting markets in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South America.
The Ka-band payload, including five steerable spot beams, has already been sold under a multiyear contract to Via Sat Brasil, a Brazilian Internet service provider.
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