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Function Carrier rocket
Manufacturer Yuzhnoye (Zenit)
RKK Energia (Block-DM)
Boeing (fairing)
Country of origin Ukraine[1]
Height 59.6 metres (196 ft)
Diameter 3.9 metres (13 ft)
Mass 462,200 kilograms (1,019,000 lb)
Stages Three
Payload to GTO 6,060 kilograms (13,360 lb)[2]
Associated rockets
Family Zenit
Derivatives Zenit-3SLB
Launch history
Status Active
Launch sites Ocean Odyssey
Total launches 36
Successes 32
Failures 3
Partial failures 1
First flight 28 March 1999
First stage
Engines 1 RD-171
Thrust 8,180 kilonewtons (1,840,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 337 sec
Burn time 150 seconds
Fuel RP-1/LOX
Second stage
Engines 1 RD-120
1 RD-8
Thrust 912 kilonewtons (205,000 lbf)
79.5 kilonewtons (17,900 lbf)
Specific impulse 349 sec
Burn time 315 seconds
Fuel RP-1/LOX
Third stage - Block DM-SL
Engines 1 RD-58M
Thrust 84.9 kilonewtons (19,100 lbf)
Specific impulse 352 sec
Burn time 650 seconds
Fuel RP-1/LOX

The Zenit-3SL is an expendable carrier rocket operated by Sea Launch. First flown in 1999,[3] it has been launched 36 times, with three failures and one partial failure. It is a member of the Zenit family of rockets, and is built by the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau. RKK Energia produces the Block DM-SL upper stage, whilst the payload fairing is produced by Boeing.[4] Launches are conducted from the Ocean Odyssey platform anchored on the equator in the Pacific Ocean, at a point with 154°W longitude, about 370 kilometres east of Kiritimati.

The Zenit-3SL design began in the late 1980s as the Zenit-3, a proposed replacement for the Proton-K, which would have used a Zenit-2 rocket with a Block D upper stage. This proposal was shelved after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, as Russia inherited the space programme, however the Zenit was manufactured in Ukraine. Boeing became involved in the programme in 1994. The design was subsequently modified, with a modified version of the Block DM replacing the Block D.[3][5]

Sea Launch integrates the rockets in California, and transfers them to Odyssey via the Sea Launch Commander for transportation to the launch site. Once at the launch site, the rocket is erected on the platform, and a three-day countdown is initiated. The countdown is fully automated,[1] and personnel are evacuated from the launch platform to Commander prior to launch.

Zenit-3SL launches predominantly carry communications satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbits. As of 2009, the only payload to be launched by a Zenit-3SL that was not a communications satellite was a DemoSat, on the maiden flight. The only launch to be conducted to an orbit other than GTO was that of ICO F-1, which was intended to be placed into medium Earth orbit, however the rocket failed to reach orbit.


Of thirty-six rockets launched, three have failed, with a fourth placing its payload into an incorrect, but recoverable orbit. The first failure occurred during the third flight, on 12 March 2000, when a software error resulted in the premature cutoff of the second stage, leaving the ICO F-1 satellite unable to reach orbit.[6]

On 29 June 2004, during the launch of Apstar 5, the upper stage shut down 54 seconds early due to a wiring fault,[7] leaving the satellite in a lower than planned orbit. The spacecraft raised itself to the correct orbit by means of its onboard manoeuvring engines, at the expense of fuel intended for stationkeeping once in the correct orbit.

On 30 January 2007, a Zenit-3SL exploded on the launch pad after an engine failure caused by debris in the turbopump. The payload on that flight was the NSS-8 communications satellite for SES New Skies.[8] This caused a considerable amount of downtime whilst damage to the launch platform was repaired.

On 1 February 2013, during the launch of Intelsat-27, a Zenit-3SL launch vehicle suffered a premature engine shutdown, as the rocket strayed from its lift-off trajectory, plunging into the Pacific Ocean shortly after launch.[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Zenit-3SL". Launch Vehicles. National Space Agency of Ukraine. Retrieved 2009-04-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "DIRECTV 10, 11 and 12". Boeing.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  5. "Zenit 3SL". Orbital Report News Agency. Retrieved 2009-04-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Kyle, Ed (2006-10-30). "2000 Launch Stats". Space Launch Report. Retrieved 2009-04-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Kyle, Ed (2006-10-30). "2004 Launch Stats". Space Launch Report. Retrieved 2009-04-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Kyle, Ed (2007-12-26). "2007 Launch Stats". Space Launch Report. Retrieved 2009-04-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Rocket carrying US satellite plunges into Pacific Ocean 40 seconds after launch". Daily Mail. 2013-02-01. Retrieved 2013-02-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>