The Boeing-led international Sea Launch company has dispatched its two vessels on a 5,000km (3,100 miles) journey to an equatorial position at 154í W in the Pacific Ocean to launch the PanAmSat PAS 9 communications satellite aboard a Zenit 3SL booster on 28 July.

The Odyssey launch platform, based on a refurbished oil rig, left Long Beach, California, on 13 July and was followed by the launch control ship, the Sea Launch Commander, on 16 July.

This will be the first launch since a Zenit 3SL failed to place the first ICO Global Communications satellite into geostationary orbit on 12 March. Then, a software problem caused a helium valve to fail to close in the pneumatic system in the booster's second stage. This allowed helium gas to escape, lowering pressure and eventually causing loss of velocity and a shut-down of the engine. Sea Launch is confident it has fixed the fault.

The programme has included a successful demonstration flight in March 1999 and the orbiting of a DirecTV communications satellite last October.

Source: Flight International