Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sea Launch Finally Sold?

Well, at least they signed a contract this time.

From the ROSCOSMOS website:



27, 2016, 17:54 GMT

September, 27, within the framework of the International Astronautical Congress IAC-2016 in Guadalajara (Mexico), a contract was signed which provides for the acquisition of the assets of Sea Launch - S7 Group signed a contract with the Sea Launch group.

The subject of the transaction includes: the ship Sea Launch Commander and the platform Odyssey with their installed rocket segment equipment, the ground support equipment at the Home Port of Long Beach (USA) and the Sea Launch trademark.
The deal is to be completed in six months – after obtaining approvals from the proper US authorities and signing a number of contracts which are a part of this deal. The deal must be approved by Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) и Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
Also today, RSC Energia and S7 Group signed an agreement on cooperation and joint work aimed at resuming the operation of the Sea Launch system. RSC Energia will provide to S7 Group the necessary engineering support, assistance in organizing the launches and in systems integration work.
Joint activities of RSC Energia and S7 Group also envisage cooperation aimed at development of a transportation infrastructure in space.
RSC Energia General Director Vladimir SOLNTSEV: “We are happy to have singed this contract – we have travelled a long way to structure the deal and implement it. The project is fairly complex, but S7 Group has a new business approach, and I’m certain that with our support the project will be a success”.
General Director of S7 Group Vladislav FILYOV: “For us, acquisition of a space launch system is an ‘entry ticket’ to space industry. Space infrastructure grows by leaps and bounds, this is a very interesting line of business, the long-term outlook for which is good. There are plans to de-mothball the system and start launching activities 18 months after the deal is approved – tentatively, in late 2018. We expect that without large investment in the Sea Launch upgrade we will be able to make up to 70 launches over the period of 15 years. Our approach to business is radically different from many companies – we are not going to sell promises, we are going to only sell launches only on the already built launch vehicles. Rockets first, and only after that – a buyer”.
The rumors of a pending sale began in earnest  around six months ago. Bits and pieces leaked out, and the "S7 Group" was mentioned several times. Considering how many times Sea Launch has been "sold" in the past since I separated from the company, I took them all with a grain of NaCl. These rumors persisted, and RSC Energia announced that there would be a big announcement "At the end of April". Of course, nothing was announced, as they work on "Russian Time". My friend who still works there assured me that there really was something to it this time, and it looks like there was.

The new "owners" still have a long climb ahead of them before any launch operations can resume. First, the sale has to be approved by several USGOV agencies, and then there's that pesky ~$480,000,000 judgment that Boeing won against Energia and Yuzhnoye/Yuzmash.

Assuming that the sale gets approved, and that the Boeing judgment doesn't derail things entirely, there's numerous technical issues that will have to be resolved. A lot of the equipment I worked with is totally obsolete, unsupported, and in many cases, completely nonfunctional, or barely functional. Whether they want to replace this equipment or go to entirely new systems remains to be seen, but whatever course they chose, it's going to take several cubic tons of money to get things running again.

They're going to find their $150,000,000 expenditure is just barely the tip of the iceberg.....


  1. Caveat emptor, and all that. I'm guessing you're still glad to be far, far away from there.

  2. Oh, yeah!

    It was nothing like it was when Boeing ran things. We were deliberately misled on numerous things, the pay wasn't what we were told it would be, morale was in the toilet, and although we all did our jobs competently, nobody really cared like they did before.

    I'm not going to say "I wish them luck" because it won't take luck to get it operational again. It's going to take LOTS of cash and more time than they think it will. Even if they can get good people to run things, there's a lot of Tribal Knowledge that's gone away with the people that hold it, and I seriously doubt if they'll be able to get any of those people back. There were tales of "I left Boeing to come back to THIS!?!" from more than just a few employees, and those people would never go back there.

    I don't think they have snowball's chance of getting it running again in the time frame they expect.

    And that assumes the USGOV approves the sale, and Boeing doesn't send the US Marshals down there with padlocks to secure they place until they get paid their judgment.

  3. But you're out of the mix, which is good! :-)

    1. Yep! They couldn't pay me enough to go back there.

      Well.....maybe for $10k/day I'd consider a very short-term contract, but you know what I mean!

      And there's absolutely no way I'd go back to sea. Even though the "buyer" owns an airline, and aircraft can be expensive to operate, I don't think they realize how much it costs to operate two ships....

  4. I hadn't realized you were associated with that. You've got an interesting background, that's certain.

  5. Yeah, I've had some pretty neat jobs in my career.

    And a couple of real duds, too!


Keep it civil, please....

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