Report: Angara-A5 Could Replace Zenit in Sea Launch

Inaugural Angara A5 launch (Credit: Khrunichev)
Inaugural Angara A5 launch (Credit: Khrunichev)

Here’s some more news about Sea Launch via TASS:

Russia’s new heavy-lift Angara-A5 rocket may replace the Ukrainian Zenit rocket in the Sea Launch project, a source in the space and rocket sector told TASS on Wednesday.

The announcement was made at the recent board of directors meeting of the RKK Energia space corporation. “The documents have already been submitted to the United Rocket and Space Corporation,” the source said.

Angara-A5 can launch up to 4,600 kg into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) from Plesetsk, which is Russia’s northern launch site. The rocket’s payload capacity would be higher if it was used on Sea Launch, which tows a floating platform to the equator. Zenit, which is used to launch communications satellites, can place payloads weighing up to 6,160 kilograms into GTO.

Although Sea Launch is majority owned by Energia, the floating launch platform and command ship are located in California. Officials have been looking to move operations elsewhere; in December, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said talks were underway with Brazilian officials. Brazil’s Alcantara Launch Center is located near the equator.

Sea Launch has struggled to find its footing in the communications launch industry due to periodic launch failures. The company has taken a bit of a hiatus until mid-2015 due to a light launch manifest.

A move to Angara-A5 would be a blow to Ukrainian’s two design bureaus, Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash, which produce the Zenit boosters. A separate company, Land Launch, operates the Zenit out of Baikonur. However, the company doesn’t launch very frequently.

The move would be a win for Khrunichev, the Russian company that builds the Angara launch vehicle family. Like the rest of the Russian space industry, Khrunichev is being absorbed into the United Rocket and Space Corporation as part of a mass consolidation.

Angara is a modular family of launch vehicles capable of placing between 3.8 and 35 metric tons int low Earth orbit.