Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sea Launch Zenits

Ooops! might be the correct reaction to this little mishap:

The launch of a communications satellite from a converted oil rig in the Pacific ended in a fireball on Tuesday when the rocket exploded on the launch pad, New Scientist reports.

It was the whole thing that went up.

Sea Launch has previously got 23 kerosene and liquid oxygen-fuelled Zenits off the ground, one of which quickly crashed in 2000 "after a valve problem in the rocket's second stage". Regarding the latest failure, the company said it would "establish a Failure Review Oversight Board to determine the root cause of this anomaly".

According to a report on Spaceflight Now, the Sea Launch live webcast of the fireworks featured the team announcer calling out "main engine start command" and then "go inertial". It elaborates: "But as the smoke and steam billowed from the Russian RD-171 engine firing to life, the rocket didn't begin its normal quick rise skyward. Instead, the three-stage rocket fell out of the camera view as the entire platform was enveloped in the explosion."

Why anyone would in fact launch from the middle of an ocean is an interesting question: the answer is twofold. Governments like to charge lots of money for allowing people to use their land and they also impose absurdly expensive safety restrictions. 


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