The Sea Launch Project Resumes Operations
RIA Novosti political commentator
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Nov 26, 2007
The space industry has lived up to its reputation. The fact that the international Sea Launch program has been able to survive its appalling January 30 disaster that badly damaged the Odyssey floating platform and is back in action less than a year later is worthy of respect. It does not matter that the launch of a multi-ton Arab communications satellite - the first since the accident - has been postponed several times.
The choppy sea causing the delays will abate sooner or later. The most important fact is that the final testing of the launch and rocket systems gave the final go ahead for the launch.
The Sea Launch project is the first ever commercial international program to build and run a sea-based space and rocket facility. The purpose of the facility is to provide commercial services launching spacecraft from a mobile sea platform.
Most satellites will be put into geostationary orbit from the equatorial zone near Christmas Island in the Pacific. Compared with other space ports, the site allows for heavier lift performance capability.
The project became a reality after the international Sea Launch company was established in 1995 and a vast amount of research, including planning and conducting a first demonstration flight, was carried out in cooperation with other firms.
Its founders were America's Boeing Commercial Space Company (40% of the authorized capital), Russia's Energia Rocket and Space Corporation (25%), Norway's Kvaerner Maritime AS (20%), and Ukraine's aerospace companies: Yuzhmashzavod and the Yangel Yuzhnoye Design Bureau (15%).
The company itself is concerned with planning future launches, day-to-day operations and financing.
The project's main facilities are a launch platform and a launch vehicle.
The launch platform, called Odyssey, is a self-propelled and semi-submerged catamaran with a displacement and length of an average aircraft carrier: 46,000 tons and 133 meters. It was built at the Rosenberg yard in Norway, using an offshore oil platform as the base. The platform is equipped with a launch table, an erector, fuelling and other systems. The rocket systems, launch and auxiliary equipment were installed at Kvaerner-Vyborg Shipyard in Vyborg.
The rocket fuelling and launching system is remotely controlled and makes it possible to perform pre-launch operations without a human presence on the platform. This feature saved many lives in the January 30 accident.
The platform can accommodate 68 crew and launch personnel, who are provided with living spaces, a canteen and medical services.
The Zenit-3SL launch rocket weighs 471 tons and is made up of a three-stage liquid-oxygen and kerosene Zenit-2S rocket 60 meters long, a DM-SL boost section, and a payload module.
The rocket was developed and is manufactured by Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmashzavod. The booster was developed and is serially produced by Energia in cooperation with Russian plants.
The payload module, which includes a nose cone and adapters by which a satellite is connected to the booster, is made by Boeing.
The first launch was carried out in 1999. In total, there have already been 24 launches. Three of them ended in accidents and involved the loss of rockets and payloads, occurring in March 2000, June 2004 and January 2007. The last accident could have destroyed the entire facility when the launch vehicle exploded during blast-off.
It was during the Soviet and early post-Soviet era that Energia first proposed its own sea launch facility. The country's shipyards became interested and still are. Russia's space industry has a high launch potential and is successful on the international launch services market.
Why not concentrate on what Russia is good at?
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
Source: RIA Novosti
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A Proton Rocket Lifts Off Once Again
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Oct 31, 2007
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