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Sea Launch has successful blastoff from ocean platform

June 01, 2012|By W.J. Hennigan
  • A Sea Launch rocket blasts off from an oceangoing platform.
A Sea Launch rocket blasts off from an oceangoing platform. (Sea Launch )

A 12,345-pound telecommunications satellite was launched into orbit on a 20-story rocket from an ocean platform near the equator by Sea Launch, a rocket venture that recently emerged from bankruptcy protection and has major operations in Long Beach.

Blastoff occurred at 10:23 p.m. PDT Thursday when Sea Launch's stark white rocket, the Zenit-3SL, lifted off from an oceangoing platform.

Sea Launch transports commercial satellites from Long Beach on a specially built ship and then launches them on rockets from a modified oil rig platform near the equator so they can reach orbit faster.

The vessels head to an isolated spot about 3,300 miles southwest of Long Beach and 1,400 miles south of the Hawaiian Islands to launch.

The company, which also launches rockets from a land-based facility in Kazakhstan, is planning to launch two more times this year.

It’s a reversal in fortunes for the company, which for the last several years experienced a drawn-out bankruptcy process that resulted in a headquarters move from Long Beach and a new majority stakeholder in the company, once a major part of Boeing Co.'s rocket launch ambitions.

In late 2010, an affiliate of Russian aerospace giant Rocket & Space Corp. Energia announced that it would invest $155 million for a 95% stake in Sea Launch, which helped boost it out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company then moved Sea Launch headquarters from Long Beach to Bern, Switzerland.

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