Spaceflight Insider

More than a year since last mission – Sea Launch returns to flight with EUTELSAT 3B

EUTELSAT 3B launches atop a Zenit 3SL rocket on May 26, 2014. Photo Credit: Sea Launch

After a hiatus that stretched all the way back to February of 2013. The international launch Service Provider Sea Launch successfully sent the European EUTELSAT 3B telecommunications satellite into orbit on Monday, May 26 at 5:20 p.m. EDT (2110 GMT). The location was along Earth’s equator out in the Pacific Ocean with the launch vehicle being a Ukrainian Zenit 3 SL rocket. It marks a much-needed win for the company which has seen more than its fair share of issues.

All reports indicate that EUTELSAT 3B was placed in the proper orbit by the booster which is some 200 feet in height. It’s first stage is powered by a RD-171M rocket engine fired to life and sent the combined stack of the rocket and its payload thundering off of the Odyssey launch platform. This was the third mission that Sea Launch carried out for EUTELSAT.

Photo Credit: Sea Launch

Photo Credit: Sea Launch

The first two stages fired for about eight and a half minutes. The core booster elements are constructed by the Ukrainian company Yuzhmash. According to SpaceFlight Now, EUTELSAT 3B soared along an easterly trajectory at 154 degrees west longitude some 1,400 miles south of Hawaii.

U.S. aerospace firm Boeing produces the payload shroud for this iteration of the Zenit booster. Once Zenit had lifted its payload of EUTELSAT 3B above the majority of Earth’s atmosphere – it was jettisoned and left to fall back to the world it had just left.

EUTELSAT 3B was able to reach a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) courtesy of anther component originating from Eastern locales. The Block DM-SL upper stage carried out two firings and is constructed in Russia. According to Spaceflight Now, the target orbit was one with a perigee of 236 miles and an apogee of 22,244 miles.

“We are delighted to see EUTELSAT 3B on its way to 3 degrees East and thank Sea Launch and Energia for this flawless launch. EUTELSAT 3B will be a powerful asset to our in-orbit resources, enabling us to increase the operational flexibility and reach we provide customers in a vast service area spanning Brazil, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia,” said Michel de Rosen, Eutelsat Chairman and CEO.

The payload for this flight, the EUTELSAT 3B communications satellite, is based off of the Eurostar E3000 platform made by Airbus Defence and Space (ADS). This configuration of satellite is designed to provide services for three commercial payloads in the C, Ku and Ka bands. If everything onboard the spacecraft works as advertised, EUTELSAT 3B will deliver coverage over Latin America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

The spacecraft should provide internet service providers, government agencies, broadcasters and other customers for a planned service life of approximately 15 years. The satellite weighs in about 13,150 lbs (5,970 kilograms).

The Zenit 3SL launch vehicle has encountered three failures out of 36 total flights. Photo Credit: Sea Launch

The Zenit 3SL launch vehicle has encountered three failures out of 36 total flights. Photo Credit: Sea Launch

“I am very pleased to once again announce the successful launch for our valued Eutelsat customer, our third in a row for them.”  Gugkaev continued, “I wish to express my gratitude to all of our colleagues at the launch site, Home Port and production and maintenance facilities for their hard work and dedication to Sea Launch program,” said Sergey Gugkaev, CEO of Sea Launch after EUTELSAT 3B’s signal had been acquired.

Sea Launch is made up of firms which originate in the Ukraine, Russia and Norway. The firm is managed by Boeing with the other partners contributing to guiding the company. Sea Launch was founded in 1999 and has not had the most successful of histories.

In June 2009, Sea Launch Co. LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Yesterday’s launch marked the 36th that the company has carried out – of which three have failed. The company’s booster also encountered another anomaly in 2004 with the launch of Telstar 8 (the spacecraft was eventually placed into the correct orbit).

For its work with Sea Launch, Boeing was levied the largest fine of its kind (some $10 million) by the United States Department of State for violations under the Arms Export Control Act (the fine could have been as much as $102 million). The issue revolved around the fact that Boeing was, in essence, importing missile components into California.

Sea Launch has also seen injunctions waged against it for environmental concerns and has even seen a bit of in-fighting between its core members. Last year, Boeing sued the other members of Sea Launch for $350 million over unresolved issues originating with the 2009 bankruptcy filing.

Sea Launch is a unique effort, one which uses the Earth’s natural rotation to launch payloads into orbit more easily. Sending payloads into orbit from the equator means that the launch vehicles don’t have to be as large. The launch vehicles are assembled and then ferried out to the Odyssey launch platform via the Sea Launch Commander.

Photo Credit: Sea Launch

The Odyssey Launch Platform and Se Launch Commander ship. Photo Credit: Sea Launch



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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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