Zenit rocket launches AMOS-3 satellite

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Zenit-3SLB

At 05:00 GMT this morning, the maiden flight of the Ukrainian-built Zenit-3SLB rocket lifted off from Site 45/1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Atop it was the AMOS-3 communications satellite for Israeli company Spacecom. The satellite separated from the carrier rocket directly into a geosynchronous orbit, several hours after launch.

The Zenit-3SLB is a modernised version of the Zenit-3SL, used by Sea Launch. New features include an upgraded guidance and control system, first flown on the Zenit-2M in June 2007. Today's flight was also the first conducted by Land Launch, a subsidiary of the international Sea Launch consortium, and the first launch of a three-stage Zenit rocket from Baikonur. The first Land Launch mission was originally scheduled for 2007, but was delayed after another Zenit exploded on its launch pad in late January 2007. A further delay from Thursday morning occurred when the errector/transporter component of the launch pad failed to back away from the rocket.

This was the 22th orbital launch of 2008. The next Zenit launch is scheduled for late May, when a Sea Launch Zenit-3SL will place the Galaxy 18 satellite into orbit. Launched a little over an hour after an Indian PSLV placed ten satellites into orbit, it also marked the first occurrence for 2008 of two orbital launches on the same day as each other, in GMT.