Russian Revivals: Sea Launch, Tourists Around Moon

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

While Russia retired its Soyuz-U rocket with one final flight on Wednesday after 44 years and 787 launches, a couple of other programs — Sea Launch and tourists trips around the moon — have resurfaced.

The new owners of Sea Launch, the Russian private airline S7, was granted a license to begin launches of the company’s Zenit boosters again. Sea Launch last flew in 2014 when the company was majority owned by RSC Energia.

Operations were suspended due to a lack of business. Sea Launch has been plagued by failed launches and a bankruptcy since it was founded 22 years ago.

The first flight under the new ownership will actually take place from land. A launch will be conducted from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan sometime later this year.

Sea Launch uses a floating platform towed to the equator to launch communications satellites. The platform and a command ship have operated out of California.

Meanwhile, RSC Energia hopes to sign a final settlement soon with Boeing on a lawsuit over Sea Launch’s previous bankruptcy. The two companies founded Sea Launch in 1995 as part of a consortium that included Norwegian and Ukrainian partners.

Boeing won a $330 million judgment against RSC Energia in U.S. court. Part of the settlement has included five seats aboard Soyuz spacecraft headed for the International Space Station. Boeing is looking to sell those spots to NASA.

Space Adventures vehicle for circumlunar flights. (Credit: Space Adventures)

In other news, RSC Energia is once again talking up a plan to send tourists around the moon using modified Soyuz spacecraft.

The Russian company developed the plan with U.S. space tourism firm Space Adventures many years ago. However,  planned flights have been repeatedly pushed back. The latest estimate coming out of RSC Energia is the 2021-2022 time frame.

The plan calls for sending two tourists and a pilot on a flight around the moon. Tickets have been priced at $150 million apiece.

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  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    So …. Russian production of Zenit boosters in Russia? Or does Russia foresee normalization of relations with Ukraine, but on what terms? …

    I thought Yuzhnoye had production facilities in Donyetsk, but they’re not listed on their website anymore. I did find this gem of an address with historical collisions ….

    Yuzhnoye SDO

    2700 Nimitz Road, CA 90802
    Sea Launch Home Port

    Wow! Chester must be rolling in his grave to have the design institute that designed the SS-18, a designated CVN battle group destroyer (MIRV’d mass nuking of CVN battle groups sighted by the old RORSAT radar satellite, which BTW was launched by a predecessor of the SS-18 made by Yuzhnoye.) setting down roots on his blvd. Nice!

  • JamesG

    Or not. Swords and plowshares…

  • Paul_Scutts

    Boeing has five Soyuz seats (which it is hoping to “sell” to NASA) and is developing the Starliner for NASA (with delays) … conflict of interest … the Russians are smurking … the result – the boys and girls of the NASA astronaut corp had best keep up their Russian skills, at least for a couple more years. What about SpaceX, I hear you say and their Dragon II? Don’t forget, Musk and Co. are desperate to be in the club and they’re now best buds with the Don. And people wonder why HSF BEO is still as stalled as ever.

  • JamesG

    Their Russian, and learning and remembering how to operate three or four different spacecraft. How did we get to this point? SMDH…

  • windbourne

    personally, I am hoping that Trump/CONgress will give NASA money to get 2 companies to add 2 different habitats to the ISS and prep them. If they can get it them up there next year, and spend the year after decking them out, then it will mean a much larger number of human flights.

  • windbourne

    I wonder if western nations will put together their own flyby of the moon quickly so that they can compete. I am going to guess that 150M is a lot of money and there will be relatively few that will do this without landing on the moon.
    With a lunar landing, a lot more will take it, even if the price rises to 200-250M.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    This has been floated for some time. I don’t think it will ever happen. This is executives of Russian state corporations looking for a source of funds for a new hunting lodge and to support their newest mistress.

  • windbourne

    well, more likely they are simply looking for funding, knowing that once we restore our HF capability, that they will lose a HUGE chunk of it.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I hope that’s all it is. But don’t forget, I think it was Zaraya funding from NASA had a few million that went into a hunting lodge for the managers of Energya. I’m not just throwing mud at the Russians, they’ve done this before.

    100 M to go to the Moon with humans onboard is a joke and a half. I understand they’re reusing a lot of hardware that was already paid for in this scheme like the old Soyuz nearing its end of life off the ISS, but it’s still a sorry joke compared to real hardware that shows some real promise at doing the job like Dragon-Falcon.

  • publiusr

    Now, they may come down on the price. If we ever put a cis-lunar station out there–you now have a way for Soyuz and Progress to service it as well.