Sunday, March 28, 1999 Published at 03:07 GMT
Rocket lifts off from the sea
First successful launch from a rig at sea
An international consortium has launched a rocket with a dummy satellite from a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean.
The three-stage rocket, built by Boeing's Russian and Ukrainian partners, lifted off at 0130 GMT on Sunday from the Odyssey - a converted oil platform stationed about 1,500 miles southeast of Hawaii.
The $2bn Sea Launch project aims to make the satellite business much cheaper by sending up all payloads from near the equator. This means the rocket can harness maximum benefit from the Earth's rotation, which helps catapult the payload into space.
Before the launch, the FAA head, Jane Harvey, said: "This will be the beginning of a new and captivating period in the field of commercial space launches."
The owners say that although the platform is low in the water, it will not be a problem unless the waves are bigger than three metres (10ft) and the wind blows harder than 45 mph (72 km/h).
A ship acting as the control centre is accompanies Odyssey. It is 200m (660ft) long and was built on the Clyde in Glasgow, UK. In port, the ship is the rocket assembly area.
The Sea Launch consortium says it already has contracts for 18 commercial launches and could host over 60 missions by 2010.
The Hughes Space and Communications Company has awarded a contract for 10 satellite launches with an option for a further 10.
The Sea Launch project involves US company Boeing (40% stake), Russian space rocket corporation Energia (25%), Norwegian shipbuilding company Kvaerner (20%), and Ukrainian rocket companies Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash (joint 15%).