It was not a good day for a Russia-launched satellite that eventually ended up plunging into the Pacific Ocean.
A commercial Sea Launch AG Zenit-3SL rocket lasted just forty seconds after liftoff, before plunging into the ocean and destroying an Intelsat IS-27 telecommunications satellite that it was slated to place in low-Earth orbit. The Intelsat-27 satellite was scheduled to be deployed over the Atlantic to provide services to the Americas and Europe.
According to Sea Launch AG, which is based in Bern, Switzerland, the cause of the failure remains unclear, but Russian space agency officials say an investigation is already underway.
“We are very disappointed with the outcome of the launch and offer our sincere regrets to our customer, Intelsat, and their spacecraft provider, Boeing,” Kjell Karlsen, president of Sea Launch, said in the statement.
While the failure did not do any physical damage to nearby structures, the incident could lead to serious problems for the Russian space agency. The Zenit-3SL is currently one of the most used rockets for international launches based out of the well-known Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan. The most recent of these launches was at the end of 2011.
More importantly, it was revealed that Sea Launch AG recently emerged from bankruptcy and Friday’s mission was widely viewed as a major step forward for the company. It has recently secured contracts with a number of various satellite fleet operators, including Intelsat of Washington and Luxembourg, and Eutelsat of Paris.
While the satellite is beyond recovery, it is not expected to hit Russia’s wallet. According to various news reports, the Intelsat-27 had a weight of around 6.2 tonnes at launch and was insured for about $400 million. At least one customer will be directly impacted by the failed launch: Israel’s Spacecom satellite fleet operator. Israel’s Spacecom was expected to launch a Amos 4 telecommunications satellite in July, although it now seems they will face delays.