Sea Launch platform. (Photo : Sea Launch)
A rocket carrying a satellite failed to reach orbit, crashing into the sea after being launched from an oceangoing platform in a joint venture by American company Sea Launch and the telecommunications giant Intelsat.
"The mission was unsuccessful, resulting in impact of the Zenit-3SL with the IS-27 spacecraft with the Pacific Ocean surface approximately 4 km from the Odyssey Launch Platform," said Sea Launch on their website.
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"Nobody was injured and the Sea Launch vessels were not damaged in the incident. A search effort conducted on February 1st from the Sea Launch Commander-based helicopter identified no recoverable debris."
Sea Launch only exited bankruptcy in 2010, and the rocket failure is a huge setback for the company.
"We are very disappointed with the outcome of the launch and offer our sincere regrets to our customer, Intelsat, and their spacecraft provider, BSSI," said Sea Launch president Kjell Karlsen. "The cause of the failure is unknown, but we are evaluating it and working closely with Intelsat, BSSI, Energia Logistics Ltd. and our Zenit-3SL suppliers. We will do everything reasonably possible to recover from this unexpected and unfortunate event."
It's not yet evident what caused the rocket to crash. "About 40 seconds after liftoff all telemetry was lost, indicating a loss of mission. The company said it will establish a board to determine the root cause of the incident," writes the Los Angeles Times.
Sea Launch, as its name suggests, has been trying to produce a viable means of launching objects into orbit from floating platforms in the middle of the ocean. The platforms are assembled in California, then towed thousands of miles out into the Pacific Ocean.