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The Mission

Rocket: Zenit 3SL
Payload: NSS 8
Date: Jan. 30, 2007
Window: 2322-2359 GMT (6:22-6:59 p.m. EST)
Site: Equator, 154° West, Pacific Ocean
Broadcast: AMC 5, Transponder 8, Ku-band, Digital, 79° West

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Follow the countdown and flight of the Sea Launch Zenit 3SL rocket with the NSS 8 telecommunications spacecraft. Reload this page for the latest on the mission.


Sea Launch vessels set sail for port following explosion
Sea Launch's command ship and its slightly wounded rocket platform are sailing back to port, just days after the heart-stopping explosion that destroyed a Zenit 3SL booster and its communications satellite cargo at liftoff.

Read our full story.


In a statement released Thursday morning, Sea Launch says its launch platform "sustained limited damage" in Tuesday's massive explosion as the Zenit 3SL rocket was attempting to lift off.

Read the statement.

0400 GMT (12:00 a.m. EST)

A commercial Sea Launch Zenit 3SL rocket disintegrated in a fiery catastrophe aboard its oceangoing platform Tuesday, destroying a sophisticated telecommunications satellite payload in a dramatic launch pad explosion reminiscent of the space program's early days.

Read our full story.

0050 GMT (7:50 p.m. EST Tues.)

Sea Launch had planned to conduct six commercial satellite deployment missions in 2007, with today's flight being the first. The schedule included the Thuraya 3 mobile communications satellite, direct-to-home broadcasting spacecraft for DirecTV and EchoStar, plus the Spaceway 3 broadband satellite and Galaxy 19 for Intelsat.

Obviously, it is too soon to know when Sea Launch will be able to resume flights.

0045 GMT (7:45 p.m. EST Tues.)

"All personnel are safe and accounted for," Sea Launch says in a statement.

The platform is cleared of all workers before the rocket is fueled up. The launch team is stationed aboard the command ship three miles away.

There has been no official word on the extent of damage to the launch platform.

0015 GMT (7:15 p.m. EST Tues.)

A statement has been issued by the customer of today's failed launch, SES NEW SKIES of The Hague, Netherlands.

"SES NEW SKIES, an SES company regrets to announce the failure of the launch of NSS 8, the sixth satellite in the SES NEW SKIES fleet, onboard a Zenith 3SL launch vehicle, and the resulting total loss of the satellite.

"SES NEW SKIES is currently not in a position to comment on the possible causes of the mission failure and is awaiting the results of the official investigation which is in the process of being installed.

"NSS 8 was built by Boeing, with launch services from the Odyssey Platform in the equatorial Pacific provided by Sea Launch. The spacecraft was intended to operate at SES NEW SKIES orbital position of 57 degrees East to replace the existing NSS 703 satellite.

"The launch failure of NSS 8 means that NSS 703 will now stay at 57 degrees East in order to continue to serve existing customers until at least 2009.

"SES NEW SKIES has already initiated the construction of NSS 9 for launch in 2009 into the Pacific Ocean Region. NSS 9 is intended to free up NSS 5 which in turn will then be free to relocate to 57 degrees to replace NSS 703.

"The NSS 8 launch failure is thus not expected to have an impact on existing customers or revenues."

2348 GMT (6:48 p.m. EST)

A statement issued from Sea Launch says:

"The Sea Launch Zenit 3SL vehicle, carrying the NSS 8 satellite, experienced an anomaly today during launch operations. Sea Launch will establish a Failure Review Oversight Board to determine the root cause of this anomaly."

2345 GMT (6:45 p.m. EST)

There is no immediate word from Sea Launch on the condition of the Odyssey launch platform. The rocket exploded as it was trying to lift off from the converted Norwegian oil-drilling platform.

2340 GMT (6:40 p.m. EST)

Today's flight would have been the 24th for Sea Launch since debuting in 1999. This is the second total failure for the Zenit 3SL vehicle configuration. The first occurred on March 12, 2000 during Sea Launch's third mission when a mis-configured valve caused a pressure loss in the second stage and orbit was not achieved, destroying the ICO mobile communications satellite when the vehicle fell back to Earth far downrange.

There also was an incident on June 29, 2004 when the Block DM-SL upper stage shut down early, leaving the Telstar 18 satellite in a lower than planned orbit. But the satellite was able to overcome the shortfall.

2330 GMT (6:30 p.m. EST)

One of the last frames of video broadcast by Sea Launch as the vehicle exploded can be seen here. The video was transmitted via satellite across the U.S. and Europe, plus webcast on the internet.

2324 GMT (6:24 p.m. EST)

Sea Launch immediately cut the video broadcast from the Equator as a massive fireball enveloped the launch platform at liftoff.

2323 GMT (6:23 p.m. EST)


2322 GMT (6:22 p.m. EST)


2321 GMT (6:21 p.m. EST)

T-minus 1 minute. Final status checks are being taken as the automated launch sequence enters the final 60 seconds.

2319 GMT (6:19 p.m. EST)

T-minus 2 minutes, 30 seconds. The Sea Launch mission director says all systems are "go" for liftoff.

2315 GMT (6:15 p.m. EST)

T-minus 7 minutes and counting. No problems are being reported in the countdown to launch.

2310 GMT (6:10 p.m. EST)

T-minus 12 minutes and counting.

2306 GMT (6:06 p.m. EST)

T-minus 16 minutes and counting. Fueling operations have been completed aboard the Odyssey platform. Over the past couple of hours, the rocket was loaded with kerosene propellant and cryogenic liquid oxygen. The platform was cleared of all workers prior to this hazardous activity, with all personnel moved to the Sea Launch Commander ship safely positioned about three miles uprange.

Right now, the transporter/erector arm is pulling away from the Sea Launch Zenit 3SL rocket. The arm was used to roll the rocket from the environmentally-controlled hangar atop the Odyssey platform and lift the vehicle upright.

The arm is being lowered to the platform deck where it will be returned to the hangar and the doors closed for launch.

1715 GMT (12:15 p.m. EST)

The Sea Launch team is entering the final six hours in the countdown to today's blastoff of the Zenit 3SL rocket carrying the commercial NSS 8 commercial communications satellite for SES NEW SKIES of the Netherlands. Liftoff remains targeted for 2322 GMT (6:22 p.m. EST).

A minor technical issue scrubbed yesterday's count, and unfavorable sea conditions prevented launch over the weekend. But all systems are reported "go" this morning.

An image of the rocket standing atop the Odyssey launch platform can be seen here.

1600 GMT (11 a.m. EST)

Sea Launch has scrubbed today's planned liftoff of its Zenit 3SL rocket carrying the NSS 8 telecommunications satellite. Launch has been rescheduled for Tuesday at 2322 GMT (6:22 p.m. EST).


A massive telecommunications satellite will be trucked to orbit later today aboard the year's first Sea Launch Zenit 3SL rocket flight.

Liftoff is scheduled for 2322 GMT (6:22 p.m. EST) from a floating platform stationed in the equatorial waters of the Pacific Ocean. The available launch window extends 37 minutes to 2359 GMT.

Unfavorable sea conditions have delayed the launch a few days.

Bolted atop the rocket is the NSS 8 spacecraft for operator SES NEW SKIES of The Hague, Netherlands. The 13,050-pound satellite features 56 C-band and 36 Ku-band transponders for commercial and governmental communications, high-speed Internet services and broadcasting.

The three-stage Zenit booster will need an hour to deliver the NSS 8 satellite into a temporary orbit with a low point of 150 miles and a high point of about 23,260 miles.

NSS 8 then uses its own engines system to gradually raise the orbit to geostationary altitude, where its velocity will match that of Earth's rotation. The satellite will be positioned along the Equator at 57 degrees East longitude.

The satellite's coverage zone includes two-thirds of the world's population from the vantage point over the Indian Ocean region, with reach to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and Asia.

The aging NSS 703 satellite currently serving this area will be replaced by NSS 8, and SES NEW SKIES plans to redeploy the older craft over the Atlantic.

The high-power NSS 8 was built by Boeing using its 702-model design. The expected life span is 15 years.

The Sea Launch fleet reached the launch site last week after traveling from the company's home port in Long Beach, California. The ocean-going launch pad known as Odyssey set sail first, followed later by the departure of the Sea Launch Commander vessel, which houses the management, official guests and launch control center.

Odyssey's ballast tanks filled with seawater to drop the converted Norwegian oil-drilling platform to the launch depth of 65 feet. The Zenit 3SL rocket was rolled out from its transport hangar aboard Odyssey and erected on the launch pedestal yesterday.

The platform is positioned along the Equator at 154 degrees West longitude. The rocket will fly eastward, ultimately releasing its payload high above the Indian Ocean.

Controllers will spend the last hours of today's launch countdown making final preparations to the rocket, payload and ground infrastructure. The Sea Launch Commander will pull away from the launch platform to a safe viewing distance about three miles away.

Fueling operations will get underway about two-and-a-half hours prior to the scheduled launch time. A mix of refined kerosene and liquid oxygen comprise the propellant used by all three stages of the launch vehicle.

After liftoff, the Zenit 3SL will fly downrange on a due east trajectory hugging the Equator. The first stage's Ukrainian four-chamber RD-171 engine ramps up to a maximum of 1.6 million pounds of thrust during its burn lasting two-and-a-half minutes. After first stage separation, the second stage's RD-120 powerplant will come to life. While the second stage is firing, the no-longer-needed payload fairing shielding the satellite during the flight through the denser lower atmosphere will be jettisoned.

Eight minutes, 31 seconds after blastoff is the point when the second stage will separate from the Block-DM upper stage and payload. Ten seconds later, the Block-DM will ignite for an four-and-a-half minute burn to place itself in an initial parking orbit with a low point of 112 miles and a high point of 143 miles. After coasting above South America and the Atlantic, the stage will ignite again at T+Plus 43 minutes for a seven-minute firing while crossing Africa to inject NSS 8 into its targeted geosynchronous transfer orbit. Spacecraft separation is expected 60 minutes and 10 seconds after liftoff.

Check this page during the launch for live updates on the mission's progress.

Copyright 2007, all rights reserved.



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