Is Sea Launch going anywhere?

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Not so long ago there was a very active alternate rocket launching system, Sea Launch, which comprised a command vessel and a floating launch platform which were both moored at Long Beach, California, and placed in mid-Pacific when needed to launch its rocket and satellite combination.

It was initially backed by Boeing (40 per cent), Aker Solutions of Norway (20 per cent), Energia of Russia (25 per cent) and the Zenit rocket company of the Ukraine (15 per cent). A couple of rocket failures and then a period of bankruptcy and litigation followed, not helped by Russia’s activity in the Eastern portion of Ukraine, seems finally to have scuppered the business.

Sea Launch managed to successfully launch an impressive series of satellites, not least XM’s all-important ‘Rock’ and ‘Roll’ debut craft and satellites for Echostar, DirecTV, Thuraya, Eutelsat, and many for Intelsat.

Yuri Koptev, head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, reported by Russia’s Izvestia news site, says that reviving the Ukrainian Zenit rocket-building activity is “problematic” although a new Soyuz-5 rocket (built by Krunichev), likely to be ready by 2022, could be used to replace the Zenit system.

The new owners of Sea Launch (the Moscow-based S7 Space consortium, in a deal agreed on March 22nd) is saying that it should be able to re-start activity in 2019. S7 Space is a consortium led by Russia’s largest domestic airline (S7 Airlines, part of the PJSC Siberia Airlines). The Ukrainian rocket building portion of the Sea Launch consortium say that they will produce 12 rockets in a compromise deal struck between Boeing and Russia, but they will be built on US soil, thus eliminating any squabble between Russia and the Ukraine.

S7, in a statement April 17th, says it has received US regulatory approval to conclude its $109 million purchase of the Sea Launch assets.


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