Russian Zenit Rocket Fails at Launch and Crashes into Pacific (Video)

First Posted: Feb 01, 2013 08:30 AM EST

It's a bad day for satellites. A Rusian-Ukrainian Zenit-3SL rocket carrying a U.S. satellite crashed into the Pacific Ocean about 40 seconds after lifting up from a platform.

The satellite that the rocket was carrying, named the Intelsat-27, was being launched into space in order to provide direct-to-home TV services and mobile broadband connections to the Americas and Europe. Weighing a massive 6.2 tons, it was meant to be positioned over the Atlantic.

Currently, Sea Launch AG, a joint venture of Moscow-based Rocket & Space Corp., Energia and Boeing Co., are attempting to determine the actual cause of the crash. This latest failure follows at least four failed Russian spacecraft launches since 2010. In fact, Roscosmos, the country's state space agency, halted the launches of Proton-M rockets in August after an accident lost two telecommunications satellites.

Those aren't its only failures, though. A spectacular failure on Sea Launch's converted oil rig in 2007 prompted the company to seek Chapter 11 protection. It had to restructure its finances as orders slowed and debts mounted. In 2011, though, Sea Launch re-emerged to launch four satellites successfully.

Sea Launch usually directs all missions from a support vessel that sits a safe distance from the ocean platform where takeoffs take place. The platform itself and its command ship are based at Long Beach, California. From there, rockets benefit from an equatorial launch location, which gives rockets an extra boost from the Earth's rotation. This allows it to lift heavier payloads into orbit.

The commercial market for launching large geostationary telecommunications satellites is intensely competitive, and Sea Launch is still struggling to re-instill confidence in the market. Officials remain optimistic, though--even if they don't yet know what caused the failure.

Want to see the crash? Check out the video below.

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