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Russian Rocket Plunges into Pacific Moments after Launch

Feb 03, 2013 07:06 AM EST

A commercial Sea Launch AG rocket, carrying a telecommunication satellite, plunged into the Pacific Ocean Friday.

Sea Launch AG Zenit-3SL rocket blasted off from the ocean-based Odyssey launch platform, but lasted just 40 seconds after liftoff and plunged into the Pacific Ocean. U.S. telecommunication satellite, Intelsat IS-27, which was slated to be placed in low-Earth orbit, was destroyed. Zenit-3SL rocket was scheduled to deploy over the Atlantic in order to provide services to the Americas and Europe, according to the Space Reporter.

The cause of the failure is not yet known, but initial reports said that heavy waves may have changed the direction of the rocket from the moment it took off, a report in the Agence France-Presse news agency said. There was no physical damage as a result of the accident. 

"We are very disappointed with the outcome of the launch and offer our sincere regrets to our customer, Intelsat, and their spacecraft provider, Boeing," Kjell Karlsen, president of Sea Launch AG, said in a statement.

"The cause of the failure is unknown, but we are evaluating it and working closely with Intelsat, Boeing, Energia Logistics Ltd. and our Zenit-3SL suppliers. We will do everything reasonably possible to recover from this unexpected and unfortunate event," he said.

The Russian space agency, which was once competing against NASA in space programs, has been struggling with a string of launch failures in the past two years. The space agency's failures include the loss of a Mars probe in the Earth's orbit and an accident to a cargo vessel that takes supplies to the space station.

After the retirement of NASA's space shuttle in 2011, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft became the only means of transportation to carry astronauts to the space station. But the accident to an unmanned Soyuz spacecraft in 2011 raised safety concerns of the space travelers. The incident delayed a string of manned missions, following which the Russian space agency planned to replace the aging Soyuz rocket with new ones by 2020.

Click here to look at the launch failure of Russia's Zenit-3SL rocket.

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