A European communications satellite was boosted into orbit Saturday by a rocket that blasted off from Sea Launch AG's floating pad in the equatorial Pacific, marking the first mission since the company's emergence from bankruptcy protection last year.
The Zenit 3-SL rocket had no problems as it rose into space with the Atlantic Bird 7 satellite, according to a company webcast. The satellite will serve Eutelsat Communications's broadcasting markets across the Middle East, North Africa and northwest Africa.
Separation of the 10,141-pound (4,600 kilograms) satellite from the upper stage rocket was confirmed more than an hour after the 1:18 p.m. PDT liftoff from a floating launch pad at the equator. The self-propelled platform Odyssey and the mission-control ship Sea Launch Commander sailed there to take advantage of physics that allow a rocket to more easily carry heavy payloads into orbit.
Ground stations acquired signals from the spacecraft minutes later, and the company declared the launch a success.
"A fantastic mission. Sea Launch is back," company President Kjell Karlsen told the webcast audience.
Sea Launch Co. was formed in 1995 with Boeing Co. as a 40 percent owner among partners RSC-Energia of Moscow, Kvaerner of Oslo, Norway, and SDO Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. Financial problems forced Sea Launch to file for Chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in June 2009.
It emerged in October 2010 with a new majority owner, Energia Overseas Ltd., a Russian corporation that invested well over $100 million. It is now known as Sea Launch AG.
The headquarters were moved from Long Beach, Calif., to Bern, Switzerland, but the company retained operations at its California home port, which is managed by the U.S. corporation Energia Logistics.
Since its first launch in 1999, the company has had 29 successful missions and two failures, including a 2007 rocket explosion that damaged the Odyssey.