Zenit rocket explodes on launch pad

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Explosion of the NSS-8 flight on the launch pad.
Sea Launch launch platform "Odyssey" in its home port at Long Beach, California.

A unmanned Sea Launch Zenit 3SL rocket which was supposed to carry a satellite to an orbit around Earth, has exploded on its Ocean Odyssey launch pad, just seconds before it was scheduled to launch. The engine had just been started when the rocket appeared to fall downwards, and was engulfed in a fireball. The rocket's payload, the NSS-8 communications satellite, for SES New Skies, is believed to have been destroyed in the incident.

Sea Launch has confirmed that all launch personnel are safe. During launch operations, they routinely are aboard another ship, the Sea Launch Commander, located approximately three miles away. The extent of damage to the Odyssey platform is unclear at this stage.

This is the ninth launch failure of the Zenit rocket, and the third for a 3SL variant, operated by Sea Launch.