- Parabolic Arc
- November 29, 2023
Failure Prone Zenit Launch Vehicle Successfully Returns to Flight
The problem-plagued Zenit launch vehicle returned to flight on Saturday with the successful launch of the Israeli Amos-4 communications satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The 3.5-ton satellite, which was built by Israel Aerospace Industries for Israeli operator Spacecom, will deliver Ka- and Ka-band communications to the portions of the Middle East, Russia and south and east Asia.
This is the first successful flight of the rocket since the failure of a Sea Launch Zenit-3SL on Feb. 1. The launch vehicle crashed into the Pacific Ocean shortly after take-off when its first stage failed, taking the Intelsat 27 satellite down with it.
The Zenit launch vehicle, which has a success rate of just over 85 percent, was originally intended for multiple uses. Four Zenits were attached to the core of the giant Energia launch system designed to lift the Buran space shuttle into orbit. Zenits were also designed to fly separately as a replacement for the Soyuz booster for manned flights and as a satellite launcher.
However, the Soviet government retired the Energia launch system after only two flights. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Zenit production ended up under the control of the newly independent Ukrainian government. Russia subsequently abandoned the idea using the rocket to replace the Soyuz booster for human spaceflight.
Zenits, which come in two- and three-stage configurations, are primarily used to launch single communications satellites. They are launched from two locations: the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and an ocean-going platform towed from the United States to an equatorial location. Sea Launch handles the ocean launches and also provides flights from Baikonur through Land Launch.
The rocket has had a troubled history since its introduction in 1985. A total of 81 Zenits have been launched, with 69 successes, 9 failures and three partial failures. The complete success rate is only 85.2 percent.
|Variant||Launch Site||Successes||Failures||Partial Failures||Totals|
The multi-national Sea Launch consortium was formed in 1995 to launch Zenit rockets from a platform in the Pacific Ocean. The partners included Boeing of the United States, Energia of Russia, SDO Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash of Ukraine, and Aker Solutions of Norway.
Sea Launch has 35 flights under its belt since 1999, with 31 successes, 3 failures and 1 partial failure, for a success rate of 88.6 percent.
|35||Feb 01, 2013||Intelsat 27||Energia||Pacific||Failure — first stage anomaly|
|34||Dec 03, 2012||Eutelsat 70B||Energia||Pacific||Success|
|33||Aug 18, 2012||Intelsat 21||Energia||Pacific||Success|
|32||Jun 01, 2012||Intelsat-19||Energia||Pacific||Success|
|31||Sep 24, 2011||Atlantic Bird 7||Energia||Pacific||Success|
|30||Apr 20, 2009||SICRAL 1B||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|29||Sep 24, 2008||Galaxy 19||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|28||Jul 16, 2008||EchoStar XI||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|27||May 21, 2008||Galaxy 18||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|26||Mar 19, 2008||DIRECTV 11||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|25||Jan 15, 2008||Thuraya D3||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|24||Jan 30, 2007||NSS-8||Sea Launch||Pacific||Failure — vehicle exploded after liftoff|
|23||Oct 30, 2006||XM Radio 4||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|22||Aug 22, 2006||Koreasat 5||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|21||Jun 18, 2006||Galaxy 16||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|20||Apr 11, 2006||JCSat 9||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|19||Feb 15, 2006||Echostar X||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|18||Nov 08, 2005||INMARSAT-4F2||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|17||Jun 23, 2005||Intelsat Americas 8||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|16||Apr 26, 2005||Spaceway-1||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|15||Mar 01, 2005||XM-3||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|14||Jun 29, 2004||Telstar 18||Sea Launch||Pacific||Partial failure — upper stage underperformed, satellite reached intended orbit with own fuel and exceeded planned lifetime|
|13||May 04, 2004||DTV 7S||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|12||Jan 11, 2004||Estrela do Sul||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|11||Oct 01, 2003||Galaxy 13||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|10||Aug 08, 2003||Echostar IX||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|9||Jun 07, 2003||Thuraya II||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|8||Jun 15, 2002||GALAXY IIIC||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|7||May 08, 2001||XM-1||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|6||Mar 18, 2001||XM-2||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|5||Oct 21, 2000||THURAYA-1||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|4||Jul 28, 2000||PAS 9||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|3||Mar 12, 2000||ICOF-1||Sea Launch||Pacific||Failure — premature cutoff of second stage|
|2||Oct 09, 1999||DIRECTV 1R||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
|1||Mar 28, 1999||Mass Simulator||Sea Launch||Pacific||Success|
Sea Launch’s history has been as troubled as its launches. A spectacular January 2007 failure in which the Zenit exploded on the launch pad set off a series of delays, financial obligations and customer defections that destabilized the company’s finances. Sea Launch filed for bankruptcy in June 2009.
In late October 2010, the company re-emerged from bankruptcy with an Energia subsidiary upping its share of the partnership from 25 percent to 95 percent. Boeing and Aker, now known as Kvaerner Moss Technology, split the remaining 5 percent.
The first four launches conducted under the new arranged succeeded. However, problems re-emerged in February when the Zenit launch vehicle failed shortly after lift-off and nose-dived into the sea.
Later that same month, Boeing sue Sea Launch, saying it is owed $350 million as a result of the bankruptcy. The lawsuit claims that the partners agreed to reimburse Boeing for investments the company made in Sea Launch if the venture failed. The legal action targets the Energia subsidiary that now runs Sea Launch. That subsidiary is owned by Energia and SDO Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash.