Sea Launch

Sea Launch is a Russian spacecraft launch service that uses a mobile sea platform for equatorial launches of commercial payloads on specialized Zenit 3SL rockets. It has assembled and launched thirty-one rockets, with three failures and one partial failure.

The sea-based launch system means the rockets can be fired from the optimum position on Earth’s surface, considerably increasing payload capacity and reducing launch costs compared to land-based systems.

Sea Launch was established in 1995 as a consortium of four companies from Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States, managed by Boeing with participation from the other shareholders. The first rocket was launched in March 1999.

All commercial payloads have been communications satellites intended for geostationary transfer orbit with such customers as EchoStar, DirecTV, XM Satellite Radio, and PanAmSat.

The launcher and its payload are assembled on a purpose-built ship Sea Launch Commander in Long Beach, California, USA. It is then positioned on top of the self-propelled platform Ocean Odyssey and moved to the equatorial Pacific Ocean for launch, with the Sea Launch Commander serving as command center.

All Sea Launch missions to date have used the custom-designed three-stage Zenit-3SL launch vehicle, capable of placing up to 6,000 kg of payload in geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Advantages of equatorial launch site:

  • The rotational speed of the Earth is greatest at the equator, providing a minor extra launch “boost”.
  • The need for a “plane change” to the zero degree inclination of geostationary orbit is eliminated, providing a major extra launch “boost”. This allows 17.5%-25% more mass to be launched to geostationary orbit than the same rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, which is at 28.5 degrees north latitude.
  • Any orbital inclination could be reached, thus (for example) combining in one launch site the attainable inclinations of both Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg.

Advantages of ocean-based over a conventional land-based launch platform:

  • An ocean launch reduces risks related to launching over populated areas, providing better safety to third parties.
  • Absence of range conflicts with other launch systems and a near total absence of ship or overhead air traffic that would constrain launch

Sea Launch was awarded the Space Foundation's Space Achievement Award in 2000.

Official website:

Posted 1 year ago with 144 notes
Tagged:sea launchrocketlaunchsciencetechnologyspacecraftastronomysatellitespace

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