Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sea Launch SOLD.....Again?

Story is here at SatNews Weekly.

Ongoing discussion at NASASpaceFlight.com is here. 

And as expected, Boeing has filed to block the sale.

Well, this is another "interesting" rumor. Over the last several years, there have been continuing rumors of Sea Launch having been sold, or new investors coming in, or the Russian government taking it over, or blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

The ships are still sitting there at the dock, and the staff is down to about 30 people....10 who take care of the facility, and 20 that push paper do administrative duties all day long.

There's no marketing to speak of, except by the Head Guy, who still attends the various conventions and symposiums of launch providers.

The launch vehicle, a Zenit 3-SL, is a Ukrainian built rocket, with a Russian engine, and those two countries aren't exactly on the best of terms these days, so customers have doubts over the availability of a launch vehicle if they sign a contract to launch.

Boeing is completely out of the picture (AFAIK) at this time. Boeing provided the entire Payload Accommodation (Fairing, interface structure, avionics, integration and launch support), along with other launch support personnel.

Boeing is still owed approximately $365 million in loan guarantees that two of the previous partners had agreed to, and then never made good on, when Sea Launch went into Chapter 11 in 2009. Boeing has been slowly going through the legal process to try and recover this money, and received a judgment in their favor several months ago.

A lot of the equipment on the ships that I worked on is 1990's design and implementation, and frankly, it's obsolete. Some of it is no longer supported by the companies that originally built it (a couple of those companies no longer exist, having been absorbed by others), and some of it was marginally supported at great cost.

Some of the systems I worked on weren't working properly, and there's a couple I know of that may not even turn back on.

There were plans to replace a lot of it, but as is so often the case, the money simply wasn't available after they came out of Chapter 11.

Refitting the ships to use a different Launch Vehicle has been discussed in numerous forums, and while it could be done, the cost would be significant.

Re-engining the Zenit is out of my area of expertise, so I can't comment on that other than to say all the support equipment on the Launch Platform was designed and built specifically for that Launch Vehicle.

Again, it all comes down to money. As we used to say when I was racing, "Speed costs money. How fa$t do you really want to go?".


  1. Glad you're out of that mess...

  2. I haven't kept up on the whole saga; it sounds like a good idea, but it appears to me like there wasn't enough interest for it to be viable - was it due to high costs from that marginally supported equipment mentioned above and maybe Boeing's defense contractor background bringing a high cost approach to it?

  3. There were a variety of "problems" they had over the years, leading up to the Chapter 11 filing they did.

    There was an entirely different set of problems after the new owners took over, a lot of them culturally related.

    I'll do a better reply to this later, or maybe do another post.

  4. The ships are still just sitting there. I pass by them a couple of times a week when I drive from Long Beach to San Pedro to volunteer on the Iowa.

    Sad to see them sitting there, BUT it would cost a truckload of gold bullion to get things running again, and customers are leery of signing a launch contract.


Keep it civil, please....

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