Sea Launch Rocket Explodes During Launch
Sea Launch's Zenit-3SL vehicle stands erect on the launch pad in this image taken before its failed Jan. 30, 2007 liftoff.
Credit: Sea Launch.Larry Trotter.

WASHINGTON - The first launch of 2007 by Sea Launch Company LLC ended in failure when the Zenit 3SL launch vehicle carrying the SES New Skies NSS-8 telecommunications satellite was destroyed as it was lifting off from the company's mobile launch platform in the Pacific Ocean.

Sea Launch issued a brief statement Jan. 30 that the Zenit 3 SL "experienced an anomaly today during launch operations" and that it was establishing "a Failure Review Oversight Board to determine the root cause of this anomaly."

Sea Launch spokeswoman Paula Korn said in a telephone interview Jan. 30 that the rocket appeared to have exploded as it was lifting off the platform. Korn said no one was injured in the accident - crew members are not aboard the platform during a launch -- and that all crew members were safe and accounted for aboard the command ship. Korn said a helicopter had been dispatched to the launch platform to make a damage assessment.

In a live video of the launch, the launch platform appeared to be enveloped in smoke - just as the picture went blank.

Sea Launch was scheduled to conduct a total of six commercial launches in 2007 including satellites still to be launched for Echostar, DirecTV, Intelsat, Spaceway and Thuraya.

NSS-8 was a Ku- and C-band commercial communications satellite that was to have been located at 57 degrees East longitude above the Indian Ocean to provide coverage of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent and Asia, replacing the company's NSS-703 satellite.