Sea Launch Failure Review Final Conclusion

Sea Launch released the results of its Failure Review Oversight Board last week regarding the January 31st loss of Intelsat 27. As earlier reports indicated, the failure was assigned to the BIM hydraulic pump built in Ukraine, which provides steering pressurization for the Russian built main engine. 

Since emerging from  Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late 2010, Sea Launch completed four successful ocean launches and 1 land launch from Baikonur, prior to January’s failure.  In the aftermath of the incident, RSC Energia has pledged to continue its support of the venture. Although still struggling to fill out a manifest, Sea Launch announced in March that it has secured an agreement with EchoStar for a launch in 2015. 

Sea Launch Press Release:

Failure Review Oversight Board

Following the unsuccessful launch of the SL-48 mission on January 31, 2013, Sea Launch and Energia Logistics Ltd. (ELUS) formed a Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB) to review the contractor findings and agree on root cause and appropriate corrective actions to prevent recurrence. The FROB is led by ELUS Chief Operating Officer Kirk Pysher, along with Co-chairman Dr. Valery Aliev, ELUS Executive Vice President and Mission Director, and Rick Pudil, ELUS Chief Systems Engineer.

ELUS has secured the participation of various technical consultants to support the FROB review, who encompass broad knowledge and extensive experience with launch vehicle technical and program matters (including prior Sea Launch experience), as well as subject matter expertise. In addition, customer participants from three global satellite operators participated in the FROB review.

On April 25, 2013, the FROB completed its review of investigations into the failed launch attempt. The investigations into the cause of the failure covered the entire Sea Launch complex to ensure all contributors to the failure were properly identified.

The investigations isolated the failure to the Zenit-3SL first stage hydraulic power supply unit (BIM) used to pressurize the RD-171M main engine gimbal actuators. No additional contributors to the failure were found. The BIM failed approximately 3.9 seconds into the flight due to the abnormal performance of the pump that’s function is to pressurize the hydraulic oil supplied to the RD-171M main engine gimbal actuators. The pump failure was the result of contributing factors associated with a pump manufacturing process that proved difficult to control.

The FROB confirms that the investigation has properly identified the cause of the failure and that the identified corrective actions will eliminate the possibility of recurrence going forward. Pending implementation of the identified corrective actions, the Sea Launch Zenit 3SL is ready to return to flight.

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