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Sea Launch Lofts First Satellite in More Than a Year
The Eutelsat 3B already inside the Sea Launch-3SL rocket during prelaunch operations.
Credit: Sea Launch

PARIS — A Russian-Ukrainian Sea Launch-3SL rocket on May 26 successfully placed the Eutelsat 3B commercial telecommunications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit, a return to flight some 15 months after a spectacular failure that destroyed an Intelsat satellite.

Operating from its floating platform located at 154 degrees west longitude on the equator in the Pacific Ocean, Sea Launch's three-stage Zenit-3SL rocket deposited the 5,967-kilogram Eutelsat 3B into a transfer orbit after two burns of its Block DM upper stage.

Eutelsat officials confirmed the satellite’s health in orbit after it separated from the rocket. [Amazing Rocket Launches of 2014 (Photos)]

For Sea Launch AG of Nyon, Switzerland, the launch arrives at a time Russia's principal heavy-lift rocket, the Proton M Breeze M, remains grounded following a still-unexplained failure of its third stage that destroyed a large Russian telecommunications satellite.

Sea Launch officials said they hope the successful flight will partly erase the memory of the February 2013 failure and position Sea Launch to win new business.

Industry officials have said it is likely that even if Proton returns to flight in relatively short order, as it has done following past failures, its crowded manifest is likely to force several months of launch delays for its customers. It is here that Sea Launch hopes to play a role.

Sea Launch officials have said they have an available rocket that could be ready for launch by late this year or early in 2015.

Eutelsat 3B, a Eurostar 3000 platform built by Airbus Defence and Space, will operate from 3 degrees east with a mixed C-, Ku- and Ka-band payload and 10 antennas operating up to 51 transponders. Eutelsat is targeting markets in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South America.

The Ka-band payload, including five steerable spot beams, has already been sold under a multi-year contract to Via Sat Brasil, a Brazilian Internet service provider.

Follow Peter on Twitter @pbdesThis story was provided by SpaceNews, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.