Sea Launch May Sail Again

Sea Launch Odyssey Platform Credit: TASS

Sea Launch Odyssey Platform
Credit: TASS

Russia has found a buyer for Sea Launch, the innovative but troubled launch consortium which combines an ocean going platform with Zenit boosters built in the Ukraine to loft satellites to GTO from the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Following the suspension of operations in 2014, Russia had been looking to sell Sea Launch in order to rid itself of some $30 million per year in maintenance costs.

Responding to a question, Igor Komarov, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos told TASS:

“I cannot name the investor or disclose the value of the contract by virtue of certain circumstances. I do hope I will be able to say more by the end of April.”

He added that discussions had taken place with a number of potential bidders, including investors from the United States, Europe, China and Australia.  Previously, both Israel and Brazil have also been cited as interested parties.

Begun in 1995 as a consortium between Boeing, Russia’s RKK Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, Norwegian shipyard Kvaerner, and Ukraine’s Yuzhnoye design bureau and Yuzhmash production association, Sea Launch declared bankruptcy in 2009. It found new ownership and a new lease on life when Energia acquired 95% control in 2010. It was short lived however, due to the combination of a loss of new bookings following a spectacular launch failure in February 2013, and perhaps just as importantly, the flareup of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, which together supply the key components of the Zenit 3SL rocket.

Late last year however, a bit of good news finally came with the successful December 11th launch of Russia’s Elektro-L satellite from a land based version of the Zenit, lifting off from Kazakhstan. That launch apparently triggered some renewed interest, with Sea Launch CEO Sergei Gugkayev telling Russian media that customer inquiries were coming in, and that the company would begin actively competing for new orders in the first quarter of 2016.

Doing so however, was clearly contingent on finding new investors, a vital step which has now been taken.

 

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