Thursday, December 3, 2015

SeaLaunch appears to be for sale

Hat tip to the Dragon's Tales for the link.

 Roscosmos and RKK Energia are reportedly looking for buyers or investors in the Sea Launch project, due to the high cost of ongoing maintenance. Said maintenance amounts to $30 million per year for the purpose-built command and integration vessel and self-propelled platform.

 Sea Launch is a joint venture between Norway, Ukraine, Russia and the United States with Boeing initially as managing entity. The project launches payloads to equatorial orbit using Zenit rockets on a specialized floating launch platform. After a bankruptcy in 2009-2010 controlling interest was acquired by a Russian company. Due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine the project ceased operation in 2014. In September of this year Boeing won a judgement in court related to costs of the 2009 bankruptcy filing, which makes possible a judgement of up to $356 million.

 Politics aside, the Sea Launch model has many advantages. Payloads go directly to equatorial orbit, increasing the mass to GEO by significant amounts. I see it as a 'toes in the pond' approach, a precursor to the 'dive-in' approach I describe here. I'm particularly pleased to see my maintenance estimate is twice the (rumored) actual maintenance cost for Sea Launch, which is exactly where I wanted it to be.

 Most of the players in commercial space development are well known and their die is cast, but who knows... maybe there's another billionaire out there willing to buy this hardware on the cheap and get creative with it.

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