From The Water To The Stars

A new high-tech launching platform will send satellites hurtling toward outer space, and for the first time, commercial satellites can launch from the ocean, CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports.

With an escort fit for the Queen Mary, The Odyssey entered its new home in the port of Long Beach. But the massive, boxy vessel isn't a luxury liner. It's a one-of-a-kind, ocean-going commercial spaceport.

The Odyssey was converted from a self-propelled oil drilling platform. The 20-story platform now carries a rocket hangar and launchpad.

"It contains over 3,000 tons of specialized rocket equipment which will be used to process, handle, and launch the rockets from the Pacific Ocean," explains Bo Bejmuk of Sea Launch, the consortium that developed the operation.

The commander of The Odyssey is another Sea Launch vessel, its sister ship. Rockets can be assembled below decks, and the ship acts as a floating mission control.


The Odyssey's sister ship

Here's how it's all supposed to work:

The Odyssey and the Sea Launch commander ship sail to the equator. A Ukrainian rocket carrying a client's satellite is then rolled out of the hangar and launched into orbit.

Launching at the equator makes it easier to position satellites that must orbit the equator.

"Today's event is a real triumph of international cooperation," Bejmuk says.

America's Boeing Corporation, along with European, Russian, and Ukrainian partners, are behind The Odyssey. So far, Sea Launch has taken orders for 18 launch dates.

Sea Launch hopes the first mission of The Odyssey, set for 1999, will send ocean-based liftoffs on a long and profitable journey.