Update on Russia’s troubled Sea Launch

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Link here. It appears that the launch platform faces numerous additional obstacles before it can become operational again, including complex political maneuvering withing Russia and with Ukraine.

Yuzhmash officials [in Ukraine] gave their Russian counterparts at the S7 Group a list of components which are no longer available for the Zenit [rocket]. One of the most important items on the list is the ignition systems produced in the Lugansk region which has been taken over by pro-Russian rebels and remains practically cut off from the rest of Ukraine. The igniters burning black powder are used to initiate small solid-propellant motors which generate reverse thrust to facilitate the safe separation of the first and second stages during the ascent of the Zenit rocket to orbit.

According to industry sources, the S7 company has been so far unable to secure the delivery of Russian equivalents of the necessary hardware and materials, probably due to lack of permissions from Moscow. Instead, the S7 Group asked KB Yuzhnoe to organize the production of missing components in Ukraine. However, in the case of black powder, launching its production in Ukraine would not make economic sense due to lack of other applications beyond the very small amount required for the ignition systems, one source said.

Some observers question whether the S7 company has a real motivation to see the Sea Launch venture through because the airline with no prior experience in the space launch business ended up with the Sea Launch assets in its lap likely under pressure from the Kremlin. [emphasis mine]

S7 has also proposed using the Sea Launch platform to launch Russia’s next generation unmanned freighter, but this faces numerous technical issues. Regardless, the highlighted sentence above indicates how much the Russian government and the top-down Russian approach to everything interferes with efficient operations. It suggests that S7 didn’t buy into Sea Launch because it thought it could make money on it, but because of political pressure. Such pressure does not produce effective and profitable companies.


One comment

  • Edward

    Sea Launch had seemed like such a good idea, but it is too bad that the Russians have turned it into such a cluster (with apologies to Heartbreak Ridge for shortening such an appropriate word).

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