Sea Launch To Loft Eutelsat Atlantic Bird 7

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PARIS — Eutelsat’s Atlantic Bird 7 telecommunications satellite will be launched in September aboard a Sea Launch Zenit 3SL rocket operated from a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean in what will be Sea Launch AG’s return to flight after its reorganization under U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy procedures, Sea Launch AG announced July 14.

Sea Launch, now relocated to Bern, Switzerland, under the nnew ownership of an affiliate of space hardware builder RSC Energia of Russia, said the rocket to be used for the upcoming launch arrived at its Long Beach, Calif., home port July 13. The transport vessel carrying the Zenit 3SL rocket had left the port of Oktyabrsky, Ukraine — the rocket is made by both Russian and Ukrainian manufacturers — May 31.

Eutelsat’s tentative agreement that the launch of the 4,600-kilogram Atlantic Bird 7 would be contracted to Sea Launch had been known for several months, but the Paris-based satellite fleet operator had waited until recently to confirm the assignment.

“We have been working very hard during the past months to realign our supply chain under RSC Energia’s leadership and to provide Eutelsat with the visibility and transparency required to witness first-hand our on-schedule performance in the factories,” Sea Launch President Kjell Karlsen said in a July 14 statement.

Sea Launch has been at the center of a months-long dispute in Russia and Ukraine about which launch-services provider, and which satellite payloads, would be given access to the limited number of available Zenit rocket components. Zenit hardware also is used by former Sea Launch partner Space International Services, which launches commercial satellites from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and also for Russian government missions.

The most recent dispute, between Sea Launch, Space International Services and the Russian government, ended in late May with Sea Launch being given responsibility for launching the Intelsat 18 satellite aboard a Zenit 3SL rocket operated from Baikonur. The launch is scheduled for September or October.

Luxembourg- and Washington-based Intelsat had agreed to postpone a planned late-2011 Sea Launch flight of the Intelsat 19 satellite in exchange for the earlier launch of Intelsat 18.