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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sea Launch Makes Success Of 4th Blast-Off Attempt

LONG BEACH, California -- A Russian-Ukrainian rocket blasted off Friday from a floating platform on the equatorial Pacific in the Sea Launch venture's first mission since a $100 million satellite was lost during a failed liftoff last March.

The Zenit-3SL rocket took off on schedule from a converted oil rig about 2,250 kilometers southeast of Hawaii. Nearly two hours later, officials confirmed success after acquiring a signal from the satellite.

"The big news here is that Sea Launch is back," said Will Trafton, president of the international venture ICO Global Communications, which includes partners from Russia, Ukraine and the United States.

Mission controllers and other workers cheered in Russian and English at the company's home port in Long Beach and on a command ship 5.5 kilometers from the floating launch platform.

Sea Launch's fourth liftoff was critical for the young firm. In March, an ICO satellite was destroyed when a second-stage valve failed to close because of a software problem.

With three out of four successful launches, the company said its customers will be offered better insurance rates and gain more confidence in the system.

Sea Launch's rocket lofted PanAmSat Corp.'s PAS-9 communications satellite into an elliptical transfer orbit. Once in final geostationary orbit at an altitude of 37,800 kilometers, its coverage range will extend from California's Napa Valley to the Falkland Islands and across the Atlantic to Berlin.

Launches at the equator allow a rocket to carry more weight to a higher orbit than from other latitudes. And because the platform is surrounded by the ocean, there is little chance of anything falling on populated areas.