Sea Launch vehicle explodes on launch pad
The above link is a minute by minute account of the countdown at Spaceflight Now
Aviation Week & Space Technology
02/26/2007, page 21
Sea Launch says it hopes to return to service later this year and to begin operating its Land Launch derivative from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, in the third quarter of this year, as planned.
In an unusually tense session at the Satellite 2007 conference in Washington last week, customers slammed Sea Launch, Land Launch and the Launch Services Alliance, which is a mutual backup arrangement among Sea Launch, Arianespace and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
James Butterworth, senior vice president of DirecTV Group, which has a satellite on the Sea Launch manifest, said the alliance serves no purpose, because it has not enabled the operator to get a quicker liftoff elsewhere, despite the extra cost to customers. Paul Brown-Kenyon, chief operating officer of Measat Satellite Systems of Malaysia, criticized the company for delays at Land Launch, which is supposed to place its next satellite into orbit. Satellite operators and manufacturers say Land Launch is likely to be delayed a year or more because of manufacturing delays that have affected virtually all Russian launch contractors.
Sea Launch officials were at a loss to explain the irate tone of the session, saying it seemed to be more a question of "personalities," mixed perhaps "with some frustration." They said Land Launch, which has orders for six satellites, is still on schedule for a maiden lifoff in the third quarter, provided Sea Launch is cleared to resume service by then. President/General Manager Robert Peckham said he still had no knowledge of the cause of the January launch pad explosion that took the booster out of service--although some details are beginning to emerge (see p. 17)--or when the inquiry would end. But he predicted the company would be back in time for two or three launches this year.
Arianespace CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall acknowledged that the launch alliance was more or less a "virtual one" for Arianespace--so far it has only benefited Sea Launch--although he said he hopes this will change. Arianespace last week landed an award to launch SES Americom's AMC-21, previously earmarked for Land Launch in the second quarter of next year. The liftoff had been scheduled for Land Launch, but this was not within the context of the alliance. Le Gall said the Ariane 5 might be available to accept a new payload this year, depending on satellite deliveries. He also confirmed that the Ariane 5 launch rate will rise to seven per year in 2008, following an agreement with EADS Astrium earlier this month, and eight in 2009.
LOX-system Malfunction Eyed in Sea Launch Blast
Aviation Week & Space Technology
02/26/2007, page 17
Edited by Frank Morring, Jr.
Printed headline: Sea Launch Suffocation
Investigators probing the Jan. 30 explosion of a Sea Launch Zenit-3SL booster are focusing on a possible malfunction in the engine's liquid oxygen (LOX) system. The vehicle's LOX/kerosene RD-170 engine, built by Russia's Energomash, burns oxygen-rich, and the blockage of an oxygen line or pressurization failure in the oxygen system is being evaluated as a potential cause of the accident. Also being studied is the timing of the malfunction in relation to the capabilities of the Zenit's fault protection software. The software is designed to shut down a malfunctioning engine safely even if a problem is detected milliseconds before release from the pad. But if the vehicle is released with a malfunctioning engine, it will drop back on the pad and explode. On Jan. 30 the Sea Launch Zenit exploded on liftoff during an attempt to launch the SES New Skies NSS-8 spacecraft from the Sea Launch Odyssey platform in the Pacific (AW&ST Feb. 5, p. 27). Analysis indicates the Sea Launch vehicle may have climbed only a few inches before it fell back and engulfed the platform in flames. In response to the accident, the U.S. Air Force ordered a two-week delay in the Cape Canaveral launch of a Lockheed Martin/United Launch Alliance Atlas V carrying the STP-1 military technology payload. The Atlas V uses an Energomash RD-180 engine, which is a twin-nozzle version of the four-nozzle RD-170, and the service wants to check for suspect hardware or software commonality in the two engine variants. Originally scheduled for Feb. 23, the STP-1 launch is now planned for a 9:37-11:42 p.m. EST window on Mar. 9.
QUOTESea Launch has penciled in an October launch date for the Thuraya D3 mobile services satellite for the return to service of the Zenit-3SL booster, following the January launch pad explosion that destroyed the SES New Skies NSS-8 satellite. Sea Launch's Failure Review Oversight Board's final report early this month says metal contaminants in the liquid oxygen turbopump of the first-stage EnergoMash 171M motor caused the explosion. The Sea Launch Commander control ship and Odyssey launch platform were due in Vancouver on June 14 for repairs and maintenance.