Ukraine, Russia Spar Over Cause of Zenit Failure. Spaceviews

?? Serge Pod #20.03.2000 17:37

Serge Pod


Ukraine, Russia Spar Over Cause of Zenit Failure

Officials with Ukrainian and Russian aerospace companies
traded accusations regarding the cause of Sunday's failure of a Zenit
launch vehicle used by Sea Launch.

Reuters reported Thursday that officials from Ukrainian
aerospace firm KB Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash, who built the lower two stages
of the Zenit 3SL booster, said that none of their systems on the
booster caused it to fly out of control and be destroyed several
minutes after launch March 12.

Yuzhnoye officials believe that a guidance computer on the
Zenit built by the Russian firm Energia caused the booster's second
stage to veer off course. Either aerodynamic stresses on the booster
or an automated self-destruct system would then have destroyed the

Energia officials, however, denied the Ukrainian accusations,
saying it was too soon to pin the blame on the guidance computer or
any other subsystem on the booster.

"The Ukrainian reaction that the Russian computer is to blame
for the failure of the Zenit is premature," an Energia spokesman told
Reuters. "Our business is to carry out an investigation, which we are

Russia and Ukraine plan to set up a joint commission to
determine the cause of the launch failure, the first in three launches
for this class of the Zenit booster but one of many overall for the
Zenit family.

The booster was to place into medium-Earth orbit the first
satellite in a planned 12-satellite constellation for ICO, a London-
based satellite communications company. The launch was considered a
major milestone in the company's efforts to get out of bankruptcy,
thanks in large part to a major investment by Teledesic co-founder
Craig McCaw.

The failure was also a setback for the multinational Sea
Launch consortium headed by Boeing and with contributions by Russian,
Ukrainian, and Norwegian companies. Sea Launch had hoped to attract
more customers with its unique launch system, which uses a floating
platform stationed in the Pacific Ocean on the equator to maximize the
performance of the Zenit booster and Blok-DM upper stage.

The effect on this failure on Sea Launch is uncertain, but
company officials vow to launch again as soon as the problems are
determined and corrected. "This is a tough business, and failures are
an unfortunate part of this industry," said Sea Launch president Wil
Trafton after Sunday's launch failure. "This group of professionals
from four nations will recover from this disappointment and provide
reliable launch services in the future."
Issue 2000.12
2000 March 20

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