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Two Intelsat payloads on Sea Launch manifest this year

Posted: January 25, 2012

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Intelsat has tapped Sea Launch to haul a communications satellite to orbit in the third quarter of 2012, the companies announced this week, affirming the company's plans to launch at least two satellites this year after it returned to flight operations last year.

Artist's concept of the Intelsat 21 satellite in orbit. Credit: Boeing
The Intelsat 21 satellite will be the second of five Intelsat spacecraft to be orbited by Sea Launch in a multiple launch services agreement signed in 2010, Sea Launch announced Tuesday.

The launch of Intelsat 21 will come after Sea Launch's Zenit 3SL rocket delivers the Intelsat 19 craft to space some time this spring.

"Sea Launch is very pleased to be entrusted with another launch from the world's largest satellite operator," said Kjell Karlsen, president of Sea Launch. "We greatly value the trust and confidence placed in the entire Sea Launch team with this key assignment."

Sea Launch uses the Ukrainian Zenit rocket and a Russian Block DM upper stage to dispatch communications satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbits, a waypoint en route to their permanent stations 22,300 miles over the equator, where their orbits match Earth's rotation and the spacecraft hover over their coverage zones.

The launchings occur from the Odyssey platform, a converted North Sea drilling rig. The mobile platform and the Sea Launch Commander control ship launch Zenit rockets from the Pacific Ocean, along equator at 154 degrees west longitude. The position provides a performance boost for equatorial orbits due to the speed of Earth's rotation.

Intelsat 21, built by Boeing Satellite Systems Inc., is destined to replace the Intelsat 9 satellite. It will serve video distribution and direct-to-home broadcasting to users in Latin America for up to 15 years.

Intelsat 19 will provide C-band and Ku-band communications services to the Asia-Pacific region, reaching the United States and Australia. It was manufactured by Space Systems/Loral.

Sea Launch's first mission since bankruptcy was successfully accomplished in September 2011 with Eutelsat's Atlantic Bird 7 payload. Credit: Sea Launch
In addition to three more launch slots arranged with Intelsat, Sea Launch has agreements with Eutelsat, EchoStar, AsiaSat and SES, all leading global satellite operators.

Sea Launch filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2009, and the reorganized company, named Sea Launch AG, emerged in October 2010 based in Switzerland instead of California. Sea Launch's operations team, which manages processing of the rocket and payloads, remains at a home port in Long Beach, Calif.

The Zenit 3SL's two lower stages are manufactured by Yuzhmash of Ukraine and a Block DM upper stage from Energia, which is the principal owner of the reorganized Sea Launch company and also oversees the overall Zenit supply chain.

Delayed deliveries of rocket hardware were cited by Sea Launch as a contributing cause of its bankruptcy. Now with direct control of the Zenit supply chain, Energia officials say they can ensure shipments arrive in California from Russia and Ukraine on time.

Sea Launch has conducted 31 missions from its Odyssey launch platform since 1999. Two of those flights failed to reach orbit.