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Sea Launch dispute ‘solved’

Russia’s S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corp (RSC Energia) and the US aerospace giant Boeing reached an agreement to solve their dispute over the Sea Launch rocket project, Energia’s General Director Vladimir Solntsev has said. The Izvestia report on the settlement has not yet been confirmed by US sources.

The dispute goes back many years and in September 2015 the US District Court for the Central District of California awarded Boeing a multimillion dollar compensation from its former partners in the Sea Launch project, including Energia, following the bankruptcy procedure. Energia and its Ukrainian counterpart Yuzhnoe claimed that Boeing had given unwritten assurances to its Sea Launch partners that it would not seek reimbursements.

“We have signed a preliminary agreement with Boeing to settle a dispute on Sea Launch in that context a court in the United States suspended all the activities to collect debts. Before the end of the year we are planning to sign a final agreement with Boeing, which should stipulate conditions of the [dispute’s] settlement,” Solntsev said, as quoted by the Russian Izvestia newspaper.

He added that Energia and Boeing had already evolved a programme of long-term cooperation, which included projects covering space exploration.

Sea Launch was formed in 1995 as a consortium of four companies from Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States, and was managed by US aerospace giant Boeing. The project aimed to use a floating launch site to place rockets on the equator – the best possible location for launch – which gives the rocket additional speed on lift-off thanks to centripetal force caused by Earth’s rotation.

Sea Launch resumed operations in 2011 after a 30-month hiatus that saw passage through US Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Now the company is 95-per cent owned by Energia Overseas Limited, a subsidiary of Energia.

Despite the re-started operation, orders for Sea Launch satellite work has dried up. There are ‘orders’ for new rockets to be built, but as yet no customers. Its last launch was for Eutelsat back in May 2014.

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