Russian Government Mulls Takeover of Sea Launch


MOSCOW — The Russian government will a take closer look at the idea of buying commercial launch services provider Sea Launch, which is owned by a top Russian space contractor but whose key assets are based in California, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Feb. 19.

Moscow has asked the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, and Russian manufacturer RSC Energia, which holds 95 percent of Swiss-registered Sea Launch, to submit an overview of the financial situation of the maritime launch services company, Rogozin said in remarks posted on the Russian Cabinet website. The Russian government holds 38 percent of Energia, which supplies the upper stage of the Sea Launch rocket.

Should the government go forward with the deal, it likely would move the oceangoing rocket pad and command ship from Long Beach, Calif., to a Russian port on the Pacific Ocean, Rogozin said. “Something tells me that if we go for it, then the base will definitely be outside the United States,” he said.

The government could potentially use the company to carry out some of the federal launch contracts and would not be inclined to ship sensitive spacecraft to the Unites States to undergo preparation for launch, Rogozin said. 

“We would have to inform America about our military and dual-purpose satellites,” he said. “It’s a situation that’s impossible for us.”

Sea Launch uses the Russian-Ukrainian Zenit 3SL rocket to launch large geostationary orbiting communications satellites from the Pacific Ocean near the equator. The company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2010 with Energia as the majority stakeholder, but has since struggled to regain its footing in the commercial launch business.

Kjell Karlsen, president and general manager of Sea Launch, did not respond by press time to a request for comment.