Friday, February 1, 2013

2/1/2013 Sea Launch UPdated 1/12/2020


A 2009 successful sea launch, photo source:
Editor's Note: 1/12/2020 SEA LAUNCH ended operations when Russia invaded the Ukaraine and was involved with litigation in 2015 as their equipment sat idle and the various owners which included Boeing and various Russian interests fought over it, potential buyers began to come forward. As of 2015 serious negoiations were in progress to sell the business , vessels, and equipment to a new owner who intended to resume launch services. It is not known for certain when or if launch services will begin again. As it turns out this story that we posted in 2013 was probably the final failed launch for the company under the old regime. Sea Launch did not have many failed launches and the ability to move the launch site made a big difference in the cost of launchs into cetain orbits. We continue to follow developments. For a broader history of te company go to:


We recently linked you to the following FOX NEWS story, Now as Paul Harvey used to say...."the rest of the story

"Sea Launch AG says a U.S. communications satellite was lost after a booster rocket carrying it into space failed shortly after its launch from a floating platform in the Pacific.
The company said in a statement Friday the Intelsat 27 satellite was lost 40 seconds after the launch due to the failure of the Zenit-3SL rocket. The Boeing. Co-built spacecraft was launched Thursday from the Odyssey ocean platform.
Sea Launch AG President Kjell Karlsen said the cause of the failure is unknown and the company is working to evaluate it.
An affiliate of Russia's RKK Energia state-controlled rocket manufacturer owns 95 percent of stock in Sea Launch, with the remainder being held indirectly by Boeing Co. and Norwegian Aker ASA. The Zenit booster is manufactured by Ukraine's Yuzhmash rocket plant."

Read more: 

The ship is designed similar to a conventional merchant marine "RORO" (roll on roll off, note ramp in upright position at stern)

                                                    SEA LAUNCH PLATFORM "ODYSSEY",
ODYSSEY is a self propelled semi submersible vessel similar to the well established designs used in mobile offshore drilling units (MODUS). Both photos are by:  Frank Leuband,  taken at the Port of Long Beach, CA on April 17, 2004 used under GNU Free Doc. Lic:

  SEA LAUNCH is a commercial space launch service that uses the semi submersible self propelled launch vessel ODYSSEY pictured above for equatorial launches of commercial payloads into outer space, low earth orbit. In many ways corporate commercial space launch services are the start of the evolution of a "Merchant Marine" of outer space. That's not an original turn of phrase so much as an adaptation. When Pan AM first began to develop regular passenger air travel including transoceanic routes via their famous "flying boats", the company adopted nautically influenced air crew uniforms and even began to advertise themselves as "The Merchant Marine Of The AIR". As space exploitation/travel begins its very early commercial stage it's interesting that like Pan Am's flying boat connection there is a very traditional merchant marine connection to at least one commercial launch service. Not only is the launch platform the ODYSSEY technically and legally a ship, but every launch is actually a two ship operation, and one is very recognizable as a very typical modern ship design. THE SEA LAUNCH COMMANDER is the rocket /payload assembly ship and launch command vessel. The COMMANDER is based on the design of a conventional "RORO" (Roll on Roll Off") commercial ship. The rocket and pay load are assembled on the Commander,then both ships proceed to the launch site. At the launch site the rocket and payload are transferred to the ODYSSEY launch vessel and made ready for launch. The crew of the ODYSSEY then transfers to the COMMANDER where the launch is controlled. It was expected that this shipboard launch system coupled with an equatorial launch site would make space launches for certain sized commercial pay loads most often communications satellites very economical.  The company's profits have probably suffered more from a turnaround learning curve and occasional slack demand than any failure to realize the expected efficiencies from the the maritime system.

  The company has twice fallen on hard times and each time it emerges from bankruptcy /reorganization more of the owner ship is taken over by a government we find positively ominous. There is a market for commercial space launch, and travel services but it is not quite large enough for companies that are not capitalized with large cash reserves to survive. The United States has no coherent maritime policy and this has resulted in the demise of our deep sea merchant marine. We also have no comprehensive space policy and have gradually dropped out of the manned space flight game. We say we believe in private industry in space but we are unwilling to lend any kind of governmental hand to insure the survival of innovative American corporate space industries unless they are part of the production line for NASA projects. But that old bear, the thug state Russia has no problem dipping into the public purse to support corporate space endeavor, as long as they end up with the controlling corporate interest. The Sea Launch company being a case in point.

 Sea Launch was established in 1995 as a consortium of companies from Norway, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States managed by the American Boeing Company with participation by all of the stockholders. Commercial customers lined up and Sea launch successfully lofted payloads for clients such as ECHO STAR, DIRC TV, XM SATELLITE RADIO, and PAN AM SAT. The ODYSSEY and SEA LAUNCH COMMANDER operated out of Long Beach California. The failed launch described in the quoted and linked story at the top of this posting was not the company's first launch failure. In those early days of the company there were three failed launches and one "partial failure" (probably failure to achieve optimum orbit). There were only a total of little over thirty launches so three failures put the predicted success rate at roughly 90%+.
Not bad in the history of space launches generally but that is pretty much a history of governmental endeavor in massive projects carried out by the lowest bidders. When you expect to get paid for doing something, a commercial endeavor customers are less patient than tax payers. In June of 2009 Sea Launch Co.LLC filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in a U.S. court. It emerged in October 2010 reorganized with a majority ownership by ENERGIA OVERSEAS LTD, a Russian corporation. This most recent launch failure isn't the first trouble since  October of 2010. It won't be the last either but there is no sign that ENERGIA is throwing in the towel. In fact the company is starting up a second launch site ashore. The Russians are in the commercialization of space to stay. Last year we serialized a group of essays that we called "Space as an Ocean" which you can read in our Maritime Literature Section where it is being evolved into a book tentatively titled "PROTOCOLS". In that series of posts we compared the present age of space exploration with the earlier age of European Ocean exploration. During that early stage of commercialization of newly "discovered" areas the first corporations had heavy governmental support and governmental like powers. These were the famed "East India Companies". As the era of space exploration passes into commercialism Russia has an evolving East India type organization and we, well we have no policy, few space craft of late , no manned space flight capability. As our own giant catfish buddy would say:

"Thug states One, English Speaking People Still in the starting blocks."

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