On January 31st an Intelsat satellite worth $406 million was lost just 40 seconds after lift-off from the Sea Launch floating rocket platform. The fault, in a Russian-built Zenith rocket, has now been identified, and Sea Launch says the launch platform is likely to return to business later this year.
The failure has meant that Sea Launch, which only emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2010, has flown no missions since the catastrophe. It had earlier stated that it would launch up to four satellites per year and Eutelsat and EchoStar have each signed launch contracts with the Swiss-based – but Russian owned – company.
The fault has been identified as a malfunctioning hydraulic oil pump that failed just 3.9 seconds into the flight. Sea Launch president Kjell Karlsen said the pump had performed without problem on about 70 previous Zenith rockets.
Intelsat expects to receive a full $406 million insurance payout in the next few weeks.