Tag Archives: Sea Launch

Russia considers using Ukrainian rocket

For the first time since it annexed Crimea, Russia has opened negotiations with a Ukrainian company to possibly use its Zenit rocket to launch a Russian satellite.

RKK Energia of Korolev, Russia, entered negotiations with KB Yuzhnoe of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, on a potential deal to launch a satellite for Angola on a Ukrainian-built Zenit rocket. Under the proposed plan, the Angosat-1 satellite would ride the last fully assembled Zenit rocket still remaining in Baikonur. The mission is seen by industry insiders as the first step in the resumption of Zenit missions, which if successful, will eventually shift from Baikonur to the Sea Launch ocean-going platform based in Long Beach, California.

The situation here is beyond complicated. Russia remains in many ways in a state of war with Ukraine. Yet, the Sea Launch platform, recently purchased by a Russian airline company, needs the Ukrainian Zenit rocket. It appears that this need is forcing the Russians to once again buy from the Ukraine. At the same time, Sea Launch remains parked in the U.S., and will likely not be available until Sea Launch and Russia settle the lawsuit Boeing has filed against the company. Meanwhile, the Zenit rocket in question however needs refurbishing and was originally built to launch a different satellite, which will have to agree to fly on a different launch vehicle.

Russia-Boeing settlement in Sea Launch dispute?

According to one Russian news source, Russia has negotiated a settlement with Boeing over their Sea Launch dispute.

Russia says it has a possible buyer of Sea Launch, but they can’t sell it because the floating launchpad is in the U.S. and Boeing has gone to court to block the sale until Russia pays them the $300 million it owes them.

Russian assets in France seized

Russia’s refusal to pay damages in a court case has forced France to seize $700 million owed to Russia’s aerospace industry.

In total, France has seized Russian assets worth $1 billion following the Kremlin’s refusal to pay damages to former Yukos shareholders.

In July 2014, The Hague international arbitration court ruled that Russia must pay $50 billion for expropriating the assets of Yukos. The seized assets include $400 million owed by French-based satellite provider Eutelsat to the Russian Satellite Communications company and $300 million owned by French space launch provider Arianespace to Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, the magazine reported, citing the Shearman & Sterling legal firm which represents the Yukos shareholders.

This story is similar to the Sea Launch court suit by Boeing, whom the Russians owe $300 million. In that case Boeing has moved to block Russia from selling Sea Launch.

Both stories suggest that the Russians are in big financial trouble, partly caused by a lack of understanding of capitalism. In both cases, they formed partnerships with western businesses and failed to realize that those partnerships placed financial obligations upon them. From its Soviet days Russia probably thought they could ignore those obligations if it became inconvenient, and they are now discovering that this is not really possible if they wish to sell their goods to the rest of the world.

I expect Russia’s space industry to increasingly become isolated from the rest of the world market, partly because of these events.

In related news, Roscosmos has revealed that after the initial launch at Vostochny in April, the second launch will not occur until 2017. This indicates that the first launch is merely a face-saving effort to hide the fact that construction is really more than a year behind schedule, not three months.

Boeing moves to block Russians from selling Sea Launch

In a reaction to news that the Russians have a potential buyer for Sea Launch, Boeing has sued to block the sale.

In a motion for a preliminary injunction filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California April 2, Boeing argued that a sale of Sea Launch could hinder its ability to collect on a summary judgment issued last year against Energia of at least $300 million. “If Energia succeeds in selling these assets and moving all of the proceeds thereof to Russia, without paying the hundreds of millions of dollars that it owes, it would unquestionably complicate Boeing’s collection efforts,” the company’s lawyers stated in the court filing.

Energia has refused to pay that $300 million. However, since Sea Launch’s floating launch platform remains docked in California, Boeing retains a great deal of leverage in this legal dispute. I expect the court will eventually put a lock on those assets until the Russians pay up.

Russia selling Sea Launch?

The competition heats up? Though he couldn’t reveal any details, the director of Russian space agency Roscosmos today said that they have found a buyer for Sea Launch.

“I cannot tell you who the investor is, or the value of the contract, due to certain obligations. I hope that we will have something to say about it by the end of April,” Komarov said. He did, however, say that investors from the U.S., Australia, China and Europe have expressed interest in the project.

Because Sea Launch is a floating launch platform, there really is no reason the company can’t be taken over by anyone in the world. And should the buyer use the Ukrainian Zenit rocket that the platform was designed to use, the technical problems might be reduced as well.

A Russia/Brazil partnership for Sea Launch?

The competition heats up: Russia is negotiating a partnership with Brazil to operate Sea Launch.

The Sea Launch rocket is built by Ukraine, which presently has hostile relations with Russia, to say the least. The platform, built with Boeing money, is presently docked on the the U.S. west coast, which is also not what Russia wants. Moving it to Brazil and adapting it for use with a Brazilian rocket solves both problems, though the usability of Brazil’s rocket is at this moment quite questionable.

Five space companies whose future hangs in the balance.

The heat of competition: Space News takes a close look at five space companies that will face critical challenges in the next two years.

Some of the companies on the list will surprise you. The article also gives some good background on the entire industry and the challenges it all faces in the coming year.

Posted from Tucson International Airport.

Sea Launch has suspended all operations until 2015

Russian competition cools down: The mostly Russian-owned rocket company Sea Launch has suspended all operations until mid-2015.

I suspect that the Russian government, now in control of almost all Russian aerospace efforts, is not interested in building this company up as the rocket it uses is partly made in Ukraine and is a competitor to Russia’s new Angara rocket. Everything the Russian government has done for the past year has indicated a desire to shut down all cooperative efforts with other countries and focus everything towards all-Russian efforts.

Thus, Sea Launch dies.

Russia abandons Sea Launch

Running from competition: The Russian space agency Roskosmos has decided not to spend the money necessary to buy Sea Launch and make it part of its consolidated United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC).

Part of the reason the Russians are abandoning Sea Launch is that the rocket the ocean-going platform uses is the Ukrainian-built Zenit rocket, and Russia wants URSC to a wholly Russian operation. Rather than partner with Ukraine for profit, they will let the business die.

Arianespace and the Russian-owned Sea Launch are seeking to get the restrictions against them removed so that they can sell their services to more customers.

The competition heats up: Arianespace and the Russian-owned Sea Launch are seeking to get the restrictions against them removed so that they can sell their services to more customers.

Arianespace wants to sell its launch services to the U.S. government, something it is not allowed to do right now because of U.S. restrictions. These are the same kinds of restrictions that has prevented SpaceX from launching military satellites and which that company is now contesting.

Russia meanwhile wants to use Sea Launch for its own payloads, but because Sea Launch’s platform is based in California, the Russian government won’t allow their payloads on it because of security reasons. They want the platform moved to Russia so that they can use their own company to launch their own satellites.

The article also describes how Japan is trying to reduce the cost of its H-2A rocket by 50% so that it can become more competitive.

All in all, I would say that the arrival of SpaceX has done exactly what was predicted, shaken the industry out of its doldrums. How else to explain this sudden interest in open competition and lowering costs? These companies could have done this decades ago. They did not. Suddenly a new player arrives on the scene, offering to beat them at their own game. It is not surprising that they are fighting back.

The consolidation of the Russian aerospace industry continues as the government considers taking over privately owned Sea Launch.

The consolidation of the Russian aerospace industry continues as the government considers taking over privately owned Sea Launch.

The Russian government will a take closer look at the idea of buying commercial launch services provider Sea Launch, which is owned by a top Russian space contractor but whose key assets are based in California, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Feb. 19. Moscow has asked the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, and Russian manufacturer RSC Energia, which holds 95 percent of Swiss-registered Sea Launch, to submit an overview of the financial situation of the maritime launch services company, Rogozin said in remarks posted on the Russian Cabinet website. The Russian government holds 38 percent of Energia, which supplies the upper stage of the Sea Launch rocket.

Should the government go forward with the deal, it likely would move the oceangoing rocket pad and command ship from Long Beach, Calif., to a Russian port on the Pacific Ocean, Rogozin said. “Something tells me that if we go for it, then the base will definitely be outside the United States,” he said.

Without question the Putin government is trying to recreate the top-down centralized system that existed during the Soviet era, with everything controlled and even owned by the government. While this might please their love of power, I doubt it will be an effiicent way to compete in the open commercial market.

Which means this consolidation is a wonderful opportunity for the new private launch companies. Soon, Russia will be out of the market, focused instead on launching Russian only satellites and spacecraft.

Posted from Rome, Italy. I am between flights, awaiting my connection to Tel Aviv.

Sea Launch announced it plans four launches in 2014.

Sea Launch announced today it plans four launches in 2014.

The article gives a nice thumbnail summary of the history of the company, including the launch failures that put it into bankruptcy and forced Boeing, the U.S. partner, to get out, leaving the company mostly in the hands of the Russian company Energia.

An investigation of the Sea Launch launch failure on February 2 has pinpointed the failure to faulty parts made in the Ukraine.

An investigation of the Sea Launch launch failure on February 2 has pinpointed the failure to faulty parts made in the Ukraine.

The article is interesting in that it seems to reveal some friction between Russia and Ukraine, with the investigators making it a point to blame the Ukrainian components while specifically saying that “there was nothing wrong with the Russian-made equipment.”

Sea Launch successfully put an Intelsat communications satellite into orbit today from its floating launch platform in the Pacific.

The competition heats up: Sea Launch successfully put an Intelsat communications satellite into orbit today from its floating launch platform in the Pacific.

This is the company’s second successful launch since it was reorganized after bankruptcy.