A Eutelsat 3B satellite scheduled to be launched to space 15 April will be delayed after recommendations by the company managing the trip to space.
Sea Launch is a private company offering commercial trips to orbit for satellites. They send out Zenit 3SL rockets that launch from a mobile marine platform from near the equator.
During the final dry "roll out" phase of the missions, engineers noticed a problem with the craft. This involved an unwanted movement between ground support equipment and the launch vehicle. The problem with the craft was noticed as engineers attempted to secure the integrated launch vehicle (ILV) to the mobile launch platform.
"During the final "dry" roll-out phase of integrated launch vehicle processing in support of the EUTELSAT 3B mission, a discrepancy in the nominal movement of the cable-mast and the Zenit-2S launch vehicle lateral plate occurred while installing the integrated launch vehicle onto the launch pad," said Eutelsat.
Flight engineers want to decouple connections between the payload and the rocket. This will allow them to study the problem, but will cost a significant delay to the mission.
"The EUTELSAT 3B satellite was not powered on during the operation on the launch vehicle and was unaffected. It remains in a safe configuration," Sea Launch program managers reported in a mission status update.
The Zenit-3SL rocket was first flown in 1999. During the first 35 launches of the rocket, all but four launches were entirely successful, while one was a partial failure. Three other attempts to reach space using the rocket have ended in total system failure. The Zenit-3SL is manufactured in the Ukraine. It stands 196 feet tall by 13 feet wide.
The first of its three stages contain engines that deliver 1.8 million pounds of thrust when ignited. The rocket is propelled by a combination of highly-refined kerosene and liquid oxygen. This form of petroleum is called rocket propellant-1 and is safer and less toxic than liquid hydrogen.
In 1994, three years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Boeing became involved with the design and creation of the Zenit rocket. Today, the company produces the payload fairing, used in securing the satellite destined for space.
Eutelsat is a media company, providing satellite communications over all of Europe, as well as many other parts of the world. The company was founded in 1977 and is headquartered in Paris.
Space Launch officials will announce a new date, once the underlying cause of the problem is determined and repairs are complete to the craft.