To watch a video of the fireball, click here

Damage to the Sea Launch floating platform appears limited despite the converted oil rig being enveloped by a fireball when the Zenit-3SL booster exploded on lift-off on 30 January, says the Boeing-led satellite launch provider. The platform remains in mid-Pacific while assessment of its structural integrity and seaworthiness continues.

All crew had transferred to the command ship 6km (4 miles) away before the Russian/Ukrainian booster exploded with the loss of New Skies Satellites' Boeing-built NSS-8 communications satellite. Sea Launch says an initial assessment of the platform indicates the integrity and functionality of essential systems remains intact.

Zenit-3SL fireball cZenit-3SL fireball bZenit-3SL fireball a

©  Sea Launch  
The Zenit-3SL fails to lift off from Sea Launch (left) before exploding 

The explosion followed 20 consecutive successful flights for Sea Launch. The only other failure occurred on the Zenit-3SL's third flight, in March 2000, when a software flaw caused the second stage to malfunction. A failure review oversight board is to investigate the cause of the latest accident.

The explosion could delay the Sea Launch flight set for the second quarter carrying the Thuraya-3 satellite, one of five more launches planned this year. Investigation of the accident could also delay the first Land Launch flight of the Zenit-3SLB, planned for later this year from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

To watch a video of the fireball, click here

Source: Flight International