From the SS-19 to the commercial launch vehicle Rockot - successful German-Russian space co-operation through EADS SPACE Transportation and Eurockot
ILA/Berlin, Bremen, 10 May 2004
Eurockot Launch Services GmbH, Bremen, Germany, a joint venture of EADS SPACE Transportation and Khrunichev, is an excellent example of successful German-Russian industrial co-operation in the space sector. The five successful launches of the German-Russian launch vehicle ROCKOT carried out since 2000 were resulting from strategic weapon conversion pursuant to the START treaty signed in 1991. By signing this treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed on the destruction of certain nuclear medium-range missiles such as the SS-19 on the Russian side. As an alternative to the physical destruction of arms, it was however permitted to use military missiles for civil and commercial applications. Thanks to this agreement it was possible to use the first and second stage of the SS-19 medium-range missile for the commercial launch vehicle Rockot.
In 1995, DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG (Dasa) and Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre formed the Bremen-based marketing and sales company Eurockot Launch Services GmbH (Eurockot) to market the launch system Rockot. In June 2003, the merger of EADS Launch Vehicles and Astrium led to the establishment of EADS Space Transportation. The company has a 51-percent share in Eurockot while Khrunichev holds 49%.
With the formation of their joint subsidiary Eurockot, EADS SPACE Transportation and Khrunichev, which both have great experience in the space business, continued their co-operation activities started at the beginning of the 1990s. This definite contribution to the conversion of arms and to industrial co-operation of the two countries was politically supported and accompanied by the governments of Germany and Russia.
Funding: Industrial investment supported by the Federal Government
After more than two years of negotiations, Eurockot financing was wrapped up in 1997. Industrial involvement of Dasa amounted to USD 33 million. These funds were primarily used for launch-vehicle adaptation and modernisation of the Eurockot-owned launch facilities at Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.
In the years to come, today's EADS SPACE Transportation provided further funds of the order of two-digit millions for investment in Eurockot and resourcing in Bremen. Despite the temporarily difficult situation in the small-satellite market, EADS SPACE Transportation showed much readiness to take entrepreneurial risk which now begins to pay off with the successful launches for customers in the United States, Canada, Germany and Japan and Eurockot's order backlog of three launches commissioned by ESA and an Asian customer.
Preparation of the commercial mission of Rockot
Rockot was intended to serve the market for small and medium-size low earth orbit satellite systems up to a total weight of two tonnes within a short time. In the middle of the 1990s, there was no suitable launch system available in Europe. Conversion of the SS-19, i.e. the use of the first and second stage combined with reliable Russian components for upper-stage construction allowed the company to offer a flight-tested launch system within an appropriate period of time. The two SS-19 stages have a heritage of more than 150 flights and delivered several Russian satellites precisely into a low earth orbit in 1992 and 1994 under the leadership of Khrunichev. The satellites were launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
In order to be able to comply with market requirements, both the launch vehicle, and its upper stage "Breeze" in particular, and the future launch facilities had to be modified and modernised. The first and second stages of the SS-19 remained unchanged and serve as booster unit of the launcher. The upper stage "Breeze" and the payload fairing, however, required modification to increase payload capacity. At Plesetsk Cosmodrome, about 600 km north of Moscow, a launch facility underwent modification and modernisation. It is now exclusively used for Rockot launches. The satellite integration hall and the mission control centre were also modernised and comply with international standards. Guests and customers are accommodated in a new hotel in Mirny, the town adjacent to Plesetsk. Financial involvement of EADS SPACE Transportation amounted to about EUR 40 million.
The successful Rockot maiden flight on 16 May 2000 was an important milestone. A mission was simulated during which two satellites were deployed into a 540-km orbit. This maiden flight served as qualification for both the launch vehicle and the launch facilities.
Eurockot Launch Services GmbH
Eurockot is based in Bremen and deals with marketing, sales and provision of launch services. This task also comprises programme management with Eurockot being the customers' direct partner in all launch-related aspects such as launcher-payload adjustment, technical interfaces between payload and launch vehicle, and the launch itself.
Based on customer specifications, Eurockot commissions Khrunichev with the provision of the launch vehicle, payload integration, testing and launch conduct from Plesetsk Cosmodrome.
In addition to considerable investments made in Eurockot, EADS SPACE Transportation allocates manpower to Eurockot Launch Services GmbH and renders technical assistance in many fields of activity.
International market success for the German-Russian joint venture Eurockot
The Rockot launch of two GRACE satellites on 16 March 2002 marked the beginning of commercial launch services. The two satellites were deployed into an orbit of about 500 km with a separation of 220 km. The US-German scientific programme GRACE (Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment), a joint project of NASA and DLR, will measure the earth's gravitational field over a period of five years. In June 2002, Eurockot's next mission was the dual launch of two US replacement satellites for Iridium, the largest global telecommunications satellite constellation consisting of about 70 units. One year later, in June 2003, Rockot lifted off for its Mulitple Orbit Mission, MOM, carrying a total of nine micro and nano satellites. Re-ignitability and best manoeuvrability of the Rockot upper stage Breeze allowed smooth delivery of all the satellites into their intended orbits. At the end of 2001, Eurockot was able to gain a contract to launch the Japanese satellite SERVIS-1, despite strong international competition. The launch contract was signed by the Japanese Institute for Unmanned Space Experiments, USEF. This contract marked Eurockot's debut in the Asian market. SERVIS-1 was launched from Plesetsk on 30 October 2003. The 1,000-kg satellite was deployed into a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 1,000 km.
For the period from 2004 to 2006, Eurockot secured contracts from the European Space Agency, ESA, to launch the environmental and climate satellites Cryosat and GOCE, and from the Korean Aerospace Research Institute KARI to launch the KOMPSAT-2 earth observation satellite. The company's international clientele comprises operators of earth observation and scientific satellites as well as operators of small commercial constellations. At present, Eurockot focuses its marketing activities on the United States, Europe and Eastern Asia.
A look into the future
Despite the difficult market environment in the satellite constellation sector, Eurockot views the future with optimism. In the medium term, the international satellite market in this segment is considered to be a market with prospects. The company's order position confirms this assessment. In addition, the Rockot launch vehicle has been tailored to the needs of the low earth orbit satellite market and is capable of carrying payloads of up to two tonnes. In Europe, there is no other competitive launch system available in this category today.
Bremen, May 2004
Dr. Mathias Spude
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