If you must fail while launching a rocket, you hope it gets destroyed in a fiery ball of fire. At least that makes for a good show worth a few million dollars. Sadly, the people from Sea Launch didn't even get that from their Zenit-3SL rocket, which failed miserably today at 6:56am GMT, after lifting off from a floating pad south of Hawaii.
The Zenit didn't go boom. The first stage just shut down 40 seconds after ignition and the rocket splashed into the sea.
Sadly, this means that they have also lost an Intelsat-27 satellite that was going to provide services to the Americas and Europe. Even worse: it may also mean the end of Sea Launch. Here's some insight from Roscosmos:
The loss of the launch vehicle along with its Intelsat 27 payload is a major blow to Sea Launch and its shrinking customer base. After coming back from bankruptcy in 2012, the company did not have many customers to begin with. Intelsat was the largest and most important customer of Sea Launch. In June 2012, Sea Launch delivered the Intelsat 19 Payload to orbit, however, the satellite is only partially functional due to one of its Solar Arrays failing to deploy. Intelsat 21 was successfully delivered to Orbit by a Zenit 3SL in August 2012 and Intelsat 27 was planned to follow on Friday.
This failure came at a point at which Sea Launch and Zenit 3SL were considered to potentially get a boost of its customer base by launching payloads that were planned to be launched atop Proton Rockets. Proton is facing an extremely crowded manifest after being grounded twice in 2012 due to failures of its Briz-M Upper Stage. Additionally, the Kazakh government is trying to limit Proton launches to 12 a year in an ongoing fight over the Baikonur Cosmodrome with the Russian Space Agency. Reports indicated that several payloads for Proton flights were being transferred to Sea Launch in case problems with Proton continue.
Originally, Sea Launch had planned two more flights in 2013, the next one being planned for August. "
The company is now investigating what happened. [Thanks Attila Nagy!]