The Sea Launch platform for commercial space launches in the equatorial Pacific Ocean may soon be mothballed until at least 2016, a high-ranking space industry source told RIA Novosti Tuesday.
The Sea Launch consortium uses Russian-Ukrainian Zenit-SL carrier rockets to put commercial payloads into orbit.
“The reason [for mothballing] is that the production of Zenit-SL carrier rockets is based in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, and the Sea Launch project currently has only four rockets at different stages of readiness. The Ukrainian manufacturer – Yuzhmash – would be ready to continue long-term mutually beneficial cooperation, but it is yet unclear how it would develop amid the events in Ukraine,” the source said on the condition of anonymity.
He said that if Russia, the United States and Ukraine fail to stabilize their relations, a decision may be made soon to mothball the Sea Launch until at least 2016.
“This means that the launch platform itself and the Odyssey command ship will be permanently based in its home port. The crew charged with preparing launches will be reduced several times over, the rest of the crew may be placed on call. This does not mean that the launch complex will be incapable of setting out on an ocean journey, but, if need should arise, it will take longer to prepare [it for sail],” he said.
A source in the space industry told RIA Novosti Monday that Russian enterprises can carry out the production of Zenit-SL carrier rockets when necessary, and the platform itself can be moved from the homeport Long Beach, California, to Russian Vladivostok.
The Sea Launch international platform was established in 1995 as a consortium of four companies from Russia, Ukraine, Norway and the United States. US aerospace giant Boeing was originally its majority owner. In 2011, following a 30-month hiatus that saw passage through US Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Russia’s Energia emerged as the entity’s major shareholder.
The platform performs launches using specialized Zenit-3SL rockets.
The Zenit-3SL integrated launch vehicle is a liquid-propellant rocket consisting of two-staged Zenit-2S launch vehicle and DM-SL upper stage.