Launch & Satellite Contract Review | Eutelsat 3B Launch in April Key for Sea Launch

by

PARIS — Sea Launch AG’s heavy-lift Zenit-3SL is preparing for an April launch of Paris-based Eutelsat’s Eutelsat 3B satellite in a launch that Sea Launch President Kjell Karlsen said will give the market new confidence in the vehicle following its January 2013 failure.

The same Zenit rocket used by Sea Launch successfully returned to flight in September with the launch of Spacecom’s Amos 4 telecommunications satellite, but Karlsen said the broader market still wants to see the vehicle fly in Sea Launch configuration.

The September flight, which was not managed by Bern, Switzerland-based Sea Launch, was the vehicle’s Land Launch version operating from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Eutelsat launch will be from Sea Launch’s usual floating platform towed to an equatorial spot in the Pacific Ocean.

The two lower stages of the vehicle are scheduled to arrive in mid-February at Sea Launch’s home port in Long Beach, Calif. Two Block DM-SL upper stages will also be delivered then. The second will be stored until it is needed for a future customer.

In an interview, Karlsen said Sea Launch could conduct a second launch in 2014, toward the end of the year, if a customer appeared. But he said that at this point most of the satellites looking for 2014 slots have been booked elsewhere.

In addition, Karlsen agreed with other launch service providers that many of the satellites now seeking launch reservations are midsize spacecraft weighing less than 5,000 kilograms, and sometimes less than 4,000 kilograms. Neither are in Sea Launch’s core target market of heavy satellites.

Starting in 2015, Karlsen said, Sea Launch should be ready to conduct three launches a year.

 

Follow Peter on Twitter: @pbdes