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Sea Launch

One of Russia’s leading airlines – S7 – had been eyeing up an opportunity to resume sending commercial satellites into space from Sea Launch, a floating space-rocket complex in the Pacific Ocean. In 2016, the airline bought the complex from Russia's Rocket and Space Corporation Energia (RSC) so it could launch Zenith rockets “for research and use of space for peaceful purposes.” Yet the tragic death of the company’s owner Natalia Fileva on 31 March 2019 (killed when her private jet crash landed) has forced shareholders to postpone the discussion of its rocket launch program, and it remains to be seen if or when activity will resume. Roscosmos, in turn, offered to help and expressed hopes that it won’t be abandoned.

The first launch of a new middle-class rocket under the Sea Launch program was planned for 2022. This is stated in the materials of the Roscosmos State Corporation on the space industry development strategy 31 March 2018. For decision of the tasks on restoration of “Sea Launch” space-rocket complex’ launch activity and its "degreasing" “S7 Space” company organized the constant headquarters in Home Port (Long Beach). By the last estimates of monitoring group, the complex is already ready for operation, and the beginning of launch activity was planned for 2018, though this did not happen.

A good idea comes to different heads at the same time. RSC Energia S.P. In 1991-1992, Koroleva conducted research on the creation of a sea-based rocket and space complex. There was no money to implement such a project in Russia in those years, but there was a belief in the possibility of creating a joint project.

The Russian company S7 Space became the owner of the Sea Launch project, in which Ukrainian Zenith missiles were launched into space. In 2014, the Sea Launch, in which the United States and Norway also participated, was frozen due to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. In S7, they said that they would replace the Ukrainian missiles, but the new Russian Soyuz-5 launch vehicle was still under development, its tests are scheduled for 2024. The company planned to fly the Zenith.

Already in 2008 it became clear that the project was working in the negative; in 2009, the company declared its bankruptcy and financial reorganization in accordance with Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code. After the reorganization, the project lasted until 2014, after which not a single launch was made at the Sea Launch.

In the summer of 2009, Sea Launch Company announced its bankruptcy, and after the reorganization, Energy took the lead in the project. However, in 2011, launches resumed. Until 2013, 31 missiles were launched from the Sea Launch. Two launches were unsuccessful. As a result of the reorganization, the subsidiary of the Russian corporation, Energia Overseas Ltd, received a 95 percent stake in the company, Boeing lost three percent, and Aker two percent.

The Land Launch Project, in which Russia, Ukraine and the United States participated, provides for the use of a launch facility at Baikonur for launching upgraded Zenit launch vehicles (two-stage Zenit-2SLB and three-stage Zenit-3SLB) with various space payloads in a wide range of orbits and inclinations.

The implementation of the Land Launch project involves the maximum use of groundwater for the Zenit and Sea Launch complexes. To this end, improvements were made to the Zenit-2 launch vehicle and the DM-SL upper stage, the technical and launch complexes of the existing Zenit space launch complex, the space head technical complex, the fueling station and other objects of the ground space infrastructure of the cosmodrome Baikonur.

In 2016, it was announced that the S7 group of companies would become the owner of the Sea Launch. The purchase of the property of the floating spaceport closed on 17 April 2016. The subject of the deal was the ship Sea Launch Commander, the Odyssey platform with rocket segment equipment installed on them, ground equipment in the base port of Long Beach in the United States and the Sea Launch trademark. The new owners are talking about readiness to resume launches from 2019, buy 50 new missiles and add an option for another 35.

Before the advent of a new medium class carrier, Zenith rocket would be used for launch. The contract for 12 first and second Zenit stages was signed with Yuzhmash, two missiles are ready and waiting for the delivery of engines and control systems. By November 2018, it is planned to deliver components to the port of Long Beach in California. And there they would carry out the final assembly of Zenit-3SL for the Sea Launch, so as to launch missiles at least four times a year starting from 2019. In other words, Ukraine would not be directly involved in the supply of rocket technologies to Russia - formally they would be delivered to the United States.

But the events of 2014 put an end to the possible cooperation with the Ukrainian manufacturers of Zenit-3SL. S7 plans to replace the Ukrainian rocket with the Russian development of Soyuz-5, but it would be tested only in 2024.

The Sea Launch Commander command ship, which left the United States at the end of February 2020, arrived in Slavyanka in the Primorsky Territory in Russia's Far East on 16 March 2020. The ship left the port of Long Beach near Los Angeles on 28 February. The Sea Launch Commander is a mobile maritime spaceport, designed to launch commercial payloads near the equator using specially-made rockets. The vessel, along with the Odyssey launch platform, is a part of the Sea Launch project, developed as a joint venture of companies from Russia, Ukraine, the US and Norway in 1995. In 2019, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin stated that the Sea Launch vessels could be relocated to Russian Far East's Sovetskaya Harbour to launch the Soyuz-5, a new rocket, being developed by the Progress Rocket Space Center.

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Page last modified: 17-04-2020 12:17:06 ZULU