Russia's troubled Zenit launch vehicle made a successful return to flight on 31 August, following a January incident that destroyed both the rocket and its satellite payload.

The latest launch, from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, placed into orbit an Israeli civilian communications satellite called Amos 4. Land Launch, the sister company of Sea Launch which undertakes operations from the Kazakhstan site, says the operation proceeded normally.

At least five additional Zenit launches are scheduled, both on land and at sea.

The 31 August mission was the 81st launch using the Zenit vehicle. Of those 81 attempts, 12 have failed at various stages in the flight. Despite the incidents, the Soviet-era design is generally considered a reliable rocket, mostly used to launch civilian communications satellites.

Zenit's most recent ill-fated mission took place in January. The launch from a converted oil platform in the Pacific Ocean, under the Sea Launch operation, went awry when a hydraulic pump failed to fully pressurize the RD-171 first-stage engine gimbal actuators. As a consequence the rocket could not control its flight path and fell into the ocean. The problem was traced to manufacturing errors.

Source: Flight International