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.
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