The Ukrainian-Built Zenit Rocket Lifts Off On Saturday

October 10, 1999 Web posted at: 2:08 p.m. EDT (1808 GMT) From staff and wire reports LONG BEACH, California (CNN) — The first commercial satellite launched from an ocean platform settled into orbit over the equator on Sunday, after a rocket boosted it into space from a South Pacific seapad the day before. Sponsored by companies in the United States, Russia, Ukraine and Norway, the venture was the first commercial liftoff for the Sea Launch Co., an international consortium that plans at least another 18 launches through 2003. Controllers aboard the Odyssey Launch Platform, sitting on the equator about 1,400 miles (2,253 kilometers) southeast of Hawaii, said the Saturday liftoff of the Ukrainian-built Zenit rocket went flawlessly, carrying a U.S. DirectTV satellite into orbit. A spokeswoman for Seattle-based Boeing Commercial Space Co., one of the major partners in the multibillion-dollar international consortium, said the TV satellite successfully went into orbit at 9:30 p.m. Pacific time. The satellite, built by Hughes Space and Communications, is expected to give DirectTV 30 percent more capacity in bouncing its signals back to Earth. It is in a geostationary orbit, which means it orbits over the world in the same place. Consortium officials said they thought sea-based equatorial launches are more cost-effective than land-based launches, offer better launch and post-launch technical support, and can put heavier payloads into geostationary orbits because the Earth spins faster at the equator. “When you launch from the equator you can take best advantage of the Earth’s rotational velocity,” said Jim Maser of Sea Launch. The other partners in the consortium, which successfully launched a test satellite in March, are Kvaerner Maritime a.s. of Oslo, Norway; RSC-Energia of Moscow, and KB Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. The Odyssey Launch Platform, a modified floating oil rig, and its sister ship, the Sea Launch Commander — brimming with the latest in space communications — set sail from Long Beach, California, on September 26. Launch platform The launch platform was a modified floating oil rig They arrived at their destination in a remote area of the South Pacific — 0 degrees north by 154 degrees west — on October 7 and decided to launch a day earlier than scheduled. The launch had originally been set for Sunday, October 10. “The launch window … was the same for both days, so it gave us two attempts. If anything went wrong on Saturday we could have another go on Sunday,” a Boeing spokesman said. The U.S. State Department suspended the project last year to investigate whether Boeing transferred sensitive technical information to its Russian and Ukrainian partners. Investigators found that no sensitive data was transferred, but ordered Boeing to pay a $10 million penalty for exchanging information without first getting federal clearance.