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Zenit carrier rocket orbits US communications satellite

October 06, 2011, 12:52 UTC+3

Land Launch is a subsidiary of Sea Launch, which conducts commercial launches of Zenit rockets from Baikonur Cosmodrome Site 45

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MOSCOW, October 6 (Itar-Tass) — The American communications satellite Intelsat-18 has been successfully launched into the target orbit.

The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) told Itar-Tass that “the Zenit-2SB carrier rocket with the upper stage DM-SLB launched at 01:00, Moscow time, Thursday from the Baikonur cosmodrome at 07:35 MSK time successfully placed into the target orbit the American communications satellite Intelsat 18.”

The Zenit-2SB two-stage launch vehicle designed by the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau is similar to the Zenit-3SL rocker that is used in the Sea Launch program. It is environmentally friendly because it uses kerosene and oxygen as rocket fuel components. The rocket used under the Land Launch program is capable of delivering into low Earth orbits payloads of up to 14 tonnes. The DM-SLB upper stage is designed and manufactured by the Energia Rocket-Space Corporation.

The Intelsat 18 satellite will join the constellation of Intelsat – a US provider of fixed satellite services. It will take the slot of 180 degrees, East longitude on the geostationary orbit. Its service life is 15 years, weight – 3,200 kilograms. The satellite will provide communications services to users in North America, Australia and Oceania, as well as East Asia. The satellite's C-band payload will serve Eastern Asia, the Pacific and the Western United States and its Ku-band payload will serve French Polynesia, Eastern Australia and the United States.

Land Launch is a subsidiary of Sea Launch, which conducts commercial launches of Zenit rockets from Baikonur Cosmodrome Site 45. It operates two-stage Zenit-2SLB and three stage Zenit-3SLB rockets. The first launch was conducted on 28 April 2008 at 05:00 GMT, when a Zenit-3SLB was used to place AMOS-3 (AMOS-60) into a geosynchronous orbit. The second flight would have launched MEASAT-3A, a Malaysian communications satellite, but that spacecraft was damaged by a crane while Land Launch was preparing it for a planned 21 August 2008 launch. A second launch was completed on February 26, 2009 when Land Launch successfully launched the Telstar 11N mission.

Land Launch missions differ from Sea Launch missions in that the modernised Zenit-3SLB is used, as opposed to the Zenit-3SL, a smaller and hence lighter payload fairing is used, and the rocket inserts the payload directly into a geosynchronous orbit, rather than leaving it in a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Zenit is a family of space launch vehicles designed by the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau of Ukraine. Zenit was built in the 1980s for two purposes: as a liquid rocket booster for the Energia rocket and, equipped with a second stage, as a stand-alone rocket. Moreover Zenit was planned to take over manned spaceship launches from Soyuz, but these plans were abandoned after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Zenit-3SL is launched by the Sea Launch consortium's floating launch platform in the Pacific Ocean and Zenit-2 is launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The engines of the Zenit's first and second stages as well as the upper stage of the Zenit-3SL rocket are supplied by Russia. There are plans to use an improved Zenit-3SLB rocket for commercial launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome beginning in April 2008. This service is marketed as “Land Launch.” Zenit-3SL has launched 30 times with 27 successes, one partial success, and two failures. The first failure, the launch of a Hughes-built communications satellite owned by ICO Global Communications, occurred during the second commercial launch on March 12, 2000 and was blamed on a software error that failed to close a valve in the second stage of the rocket. The second failure occurred on January 30, 2007 when the rocket exploded on the Ocean Odyssey launch platform, seconds after engine ignition. The NSS-8 communication satellite on board was destroyed. However on September 24, 2011 Zenit-3SL launched successfully from the Ocean Odyssey launch platform under renewed Sea Launch project. The rocket delivered the European communication satellite Atlantic Bird 7 to it's planned orbit.

In a study of 16 launchers, the Zenit-2 was, as of March 18, 2001, the lowest cost vehicle for achieving LEO in terms of payload weight per launch ($1,167-1,667 per pound or 2,567-3,667 per kg), and one of the lowest in terms of total costs per launch ($35–$50 million).

Intelsat is the leading provider of satellite services worldwide. For more than 45 years, Intelsat has been delivering information and entertainment for many of the world’s leading media and network companies, multinational corporations, Internet Service Providers and governmental agencies. Intelsat’s satellite, teleport and fiber infrastructure is unmatched in the industry, setting the standard for transmissions of video, data and voice services.

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