New owner of Sea Launch eyes at least 10 missions in five years
S7 Group, the new owner of the Sea Launch complex, has revealed its flight plans for the upcoming years. According to Sergei Sopov, CEO of S7 Space Transport Systems, the Sea Launch platform could carry out from 10 to 12 launches in the first five years after the resumption of its work.
Sea Launch is an international launch services provider that was established in 1995 as a consortium of four companies from Norway, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States. The company suspended the launches from its Odyssey spacecraft platform, located at the Port of Long Beach, California, in mid-2014, following the Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
Now, S7 Group, which purchased the Sea Launch Commander ship and the Odyssey spacecraft launch platform, as well as the ground-based facilities, in late September 2016, plans to resume launches in 2017.
“About 10–12 launches, if we take the year 2017 as a starting point,” Sopov said in response to the relevant question, the Russian press agency TASS reports.
Earlier, the largest private aviation holding in Russia announced that the spaceport will restart the launches at the end of 2018, targeting up to 70 launches in the next 15 years.
“Demothballing of the complex and start of the launching operations are scheduled 18 months after the approval of the transaction – approximately at the end of 2018. We expect to be able to make up to 70 launches in the next 15 years without any large investments into modernization of the Sea Launch,” Vladislav Filev, S7 Group Director General said on Sept. 27.
However, Sopov noted on Friday, Oct. 7, that the resumption of launches might be delayed for five years. This decision could be driven by the necessity of developing a new rocket if problems arise with the delivery of the Russian-Ukrainian Zenit carrier rockets, which usually were employed to deliver payloads into space from the Odyssey platform.
“If Yuzhmash does not produce rockets, we’ll take a pause for five years and will be developing another rocket together with Russian enterprises for our spaceport,” Sopov said.
Yuzhmash is a Ukrainian state-owned aerospace manufacturer, producing Zenit rockets. In order to not to be reliant on the Ukrainian side, S7 Group and the Russian Rocket and Space Corporation Energia mull the possibility of creating a medium-class carrier rocket to replace the Zenit family of launchers.
Meanwhile, the purchase of Sea Launch still needs to finalized, which requires approval by the relevant U.S. authorities – such as the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) – as well as the signing of a number of contracts comprising this transaction. These operations are planned to be completed in the next six months.
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Russian-Ukrainian rockets sound like a unicorn at this point. As for 5 years, if Roscosmos could develop rockets this fast, Angara would have been flying for 15 years already.