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Spaceport resurrects Sea Launch concept

May 24, 2023

Once upon a time there was Sea Launch, a US/Norway/Russia/Ukraine consortium that used a converted oil-rig plus a support ship, to equatorially launch rockets and their satellites from the sea and using Zenit rockets. Sea Launch operated from 1999 to 2014 and successfully launched 32 rockets, although suffered a total of three complete failures and one partial failure. It wrapped up acrimoniously in 2015.

Now, a new entrant is making headway in what could be a return of the concept. Indeed, The Spaceport Company says it is “reinventing spaceports”. It adds that on the commercial side, today’s space demand requires a new kind of spaceport: high-cadence, fast-turnaround, cost-effective, and in close proximity to manufacturing sites.

The Spaceport Company should not be confused with Spaceport America which is based in New Mexico and based near the town of Truth or Consequences in Sierra County, New Mexico.

The Spaceport Company has successfully launched four smallish rockets from a floating platform in the Gulf of Mexico as part of ‘proof of concept’ exercises.

“This demonstration provided numerous lessons which will be incorporated into our next project: building a sea-based spaceport capable of orbital operations,” commented Tom Marotta, CEO/founder of The Spaceport Company. “We are working towards offering the US’s first truly commercial spaceport, which can best support the rapidly growing commercial launch industry and alleviate the burdens on government ranges.”

The ‘proof of concept’ flights needed to satisfy the Federal Aviation Administration as well as the US Coast Guard that such launches could be managed successfully.

The actual launches took place just South of Gulfport, Mississippi. The rockets were pre-loaded onto the platform with the rig then moving out to sea. After a launch the platform returns to its home port for its next mission.

The rockets came from Evolution Space, a Mojave Desert-based solid-rocket developer.

“We’re proud and grateful to be involved in what The Spaceport Company is doing,” said Steve Heller, CEO and founder of Evolution Space.

The concept for The Spaceport Company is a little simple than Sea Launch. The launch platform can sail to a designed location and then extend its legs to anchor itself to the seafloor and raise the platform out of the water and thus create a ‘solid’ launch pad.

Rocket assembly could be based at facilities such as the Kennedy/Cape Canaveral sites in Florida. Moreover, the plans can cope with rockets targeting low Earth orbit and overall payloads of about 1 tonne.

Back in April, it announced a partnership with Vaya Space, a small launch vehicle developer, to host launches as soon as 2025.

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