Zenit 3 SL
Launch vehicle Zenit 3-SL/Block DM-SL
Launch site International Waters, Pacific Ocean
Date/Time 2007-01-30 23:22
Description First stage failure
Cause unknown
Payload NSS-8
Desired orbit Geostationary transfer orbit


A Sea Launch Zenit-3SL vehicle was destroyed along with its payload, SES New Skies' NSS-8 satellite, in an explosion shortly after the ignition of the rocket's main engine.

Nobody was injured as the launch pad, a converted oil rig positioned on the equator at 154 degrees West longitude in the Pacific Ocean, is routinely evacuated before each launch. Launches are remote controlled from the Sea Launch Commander ship, positioned at a distance of several kilometres.

An interagency CIS Joint Commission concluded in March 2007 that the failure initiated in the liquid oxygen (LOx) turbopump section of the RD-171M main engine.The Sea Launch Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB) in June concurred with the Commission's findings, conclusions and recommendations. It said the anomaly initiated within the RD-171M LOx turbopump as the result of a metallic object becoming lodged between the pump's moving and stationary components. This object ignited and burned as a result of friction-induced heat. The combustion of the object set off a string of events that led to the destruction of the LOx pump, RD-171M engine and ultimately the Zenit 3SL and its payload.

The Commission found two operations with the potential for introduction of foreign object debris (FOD) into the LOx feed system. The FROB confirmed that the Commission identified the necessary corrective actions to preclude these operations as potential sources for FOD introduction in the future.

See also:

Launch Failures Chronology