Posts Tagged ‘sea launch’

Ukrainian Engines Help Vega Launch

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Regardless of the final outcome regarding Sea-Launch and Boeing’s mess (Boeing Co. et al. v. KB Yuzhnoye et al., case number 13-cv-00730, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California), Ukrainian rocket engines are a good alternative to Russian RD-180’s.

The Arianespace Vega launch yesterday (#VV05) was powered by Yuzhnoye’s RD-843 engines, which are good for LEO/sun-synch orbits and earth observation missions. Their technical reliability — combined with Ukrainian honesty — makes them viable alternatives. In fact, they should be encouraged to join the ESA, too!

Rocket de l’Europe répond

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Naturally, Arianespace participates in the Paris Air Show and the swirling questions are related to a competitor who isn’t there: SpaceX. Their response is predictable and defensive, and with a billion euros at stake, can you blame them?

There’s a real need for commercial launch services and well-run commercial satellite operators want to make sure there’s viable set of competitors out there. Spreading business around to Sea-Launch, Arianespace and ILS (Proton) helps keep them in business and assures the operators a way into space when needed. Commercial launches from Cape Canaveral were always preferred — both for location and reliability. The cost, however, made the bean-counters squirm.

Reading the Reuters report by Irene Klotz about how there were no commercial launches struck me as naive. The U.S. Air Force reserved all the available launch vehicle manifests for Atlas and Delta in the U.S. for their payloads — not because of competition from foreign-based companies. Yes, there’s the cost factor. If you could save $20 million on a single launch by going to Kazakhstan or French Guiana, why not?

And that’s why SpaceX is set to grab a bunch of business by launching from the Cape at a lower cost. If you factor in the prospect of all-electric spacecraft, then you could see a seismic shift in the market dynamics of launch services. So you shouldn’t wonder why Arianespace is being defensive, as cited by Space News

One of the Falcon 9’s most potent arguments is that it is capable of carrying two all-electric-propulsion satellites at a time into geostationary transfer orbit. But according to the first customer of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems’ all-electric 702SP platform, Satmex of Mexico, it will take the Satmex satellite about eight months to reach its final orbital position and begin generating revenue.

Factoring in a longer orbit-raising into the overall spacecraft replacement cycle is certainly possible. Now, if only satellite operators start passing along these savings from simplified spacecraft design, lower-cost launch and cost-effective propulsion systems to lowering the cost of leasing bandwidth to customers remains to be seen.

Thrust Vector Control System

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Ya, the gorilla in the room is poor quality, according to

In a statement issued Feb. 6, Vitaly Lopota, general designer and president of RSC Energia, vowed investigators would find the cause of the Feb. 1 launch mishap and resume launching satellites.

“In conjunction with the participants of this program and various interested parties from the business community, we are in the process of creating a strategy that will ensure the long-term viability of the Sea Launch system as well as provide for evolutionary improvements to its performance,” Lopota said in a statement. “We remain confident that the Sea Launch program will continue to remain a key launch service provider to the world’s spacecraft operator community for years to come.”

The Feb. 1 failure marked the fourth problematic launch in 35 flights from Sea Launch’s ocean pad, and it was the first anomaly since the company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

“I urge all current and potential customers of Sea Launch to be patient, recognizing the strategic importance of launch vehicle diversity to their own business,” Lopota said. “We can assure you that Sea Launch will continue to launch our customer’s spacecraft on schedule, reliably and with a high level of injection accuracy.”

The Russian and Ukrainian governments assumed control of the investigation into the Feb. 1 launch failure. Engineers are focusing their inquiry on the thrust vector control system of the Zenit rocket’s RD-171 first stage engine.

The thrust vector control system pivots the engine in flight, directing its thrust to help steer the rocket through the atmosphere on the proper trajectory.

The steering system failed soon after launch, causing the rocket to veer from its planned flight path.

The Zenit rocket’s flight computer detected the booster exceeded a programmed roll limit and initiated an engine shutdown sequence, which is designed to safely terminate the flight in the event of a problem.

The RD-171 engine, built in Russia by NPO Energomash, switched off about 20 seconds after liftoff, and the rocket crashed into the Pacific a few miles from the launch platform.

Afloat Again for Atlantic Bird 7

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Nice to see Sea-Launch’s return to service after all that bankruptcy business in 2009.

Sea Launch AG has successfully launched the ATLANTIC BIRD(TM) 7 broadcast satellite from the Equator on the ocean-based Odyssey Launch Platform, marking its first mission for Eutelsat Communications (Euronext Paris: ETL) and its awaited return to launch operations following re-organization in late 2010.

The Zenit-3SL rocket carrying the ATLANTIC BIRD(TM) 7 spacecraft lifted off at 13:18 Pacific Daylight Time (20:18 GMT/UTC) on September 24 from the launch platform, positioned at 154 degrees West Longitude in international waters of the Pacific Ocean. One hour and seven minutes later, the Block DM-SL upper stage inserted the satellite, weighing approximately 4,600 kilograms (10,141 lbs.) and built by Astrium, an EADS company, into geosynchronous transfer orbit, on its way to a final orbital position at 7 degrees West Longitude. Operators at the Hartebeesthoek ground station near Pretoria, South Africa acquired the spacecraft’s first signals from orbit shortly after spacecraft separation. All systems performed nominally throughout the launch mission.

Here’s the video, with dual English and Ukrainian countdown in the beginning, followed by the camera operator trying to keep the rocket in the frame while out at sea…