S7 Sea Launch Orders 12 Zenit Boosters

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

DNIPROPETROVSK, Ukraine (Yuzhmash PR) — On April 28 this year, the contract was signed between Yuzhmash and S7 Sea Launch Limited on the production and supply of Zenit-series launch vehicles.

In general, the contract provides for the production of 12 launch vehicles for use in the Sea Launch and Land Launch programs for the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes in the framework of international space projects.

Now in production there are 2 rockets of modifications of Zenit-3SL and Zenit-3SLB.

The signing of this contract made a big step in overcoming the deep crisis in which Yuzhmash stayed since 2013 and which resulted from a massive decline in production volumes.

Persistent three-year work of the company’s specialists brought results. Today Yuzhmash portfolio of orders for the next few years more than 350 mln. US dollars.

Yuzhmash expresses its deep gratitude to the legislative and executive branches of power for providing the unprecedented, as for our enterprise, regulatory and financial support. Without this support, it was impossible to resume production and overcome the crisis.

Yuzhmash’s withdrawal into stable operation regime will create the appropriate conditions for the corporatization of the enterprise and the search for a strategic investor. The implementation of these measures, in turn, is a prerequisite for achieving the main medium-term goal of Yuzhmash, which is to ensure the full involvement of the enterprise in international cooperation in the production of rocket and space technology.

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  • Terry Stetler

    Dunno the veracity, but this Russian language article indicates Roscosmos may not be on board with providing the engines (Google translated)

    https://rucompromat.com/articles/kosmicheskomu_kontraktu_ne_podhodyat_dvigateli

    “The Agreement provides for the creation of 12 carriers, which, as they say in the company, to be used for start-up in the Pacific Ocean (Sea Launch project), as well as from the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Land Launch). The problem is that the “Zenith” is established by the Russian rocket engines, but “Roskosmos” claim that they have no obligation to supply to Ukraine they do not. And as an investor will get out of the situation is unknown.”

  • Lee

    Love reading articles in “Ukranglish”. Almost as good as “Russenglish”. However, “Chinglish” is always the most entertaining to read 🙂

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    S7 is a well placed member of Russian enterprise. It’s their version of SouthWest Airlines. So obtaining Putin’s stamp of approval probably was not too hard. I’d bet there will be minimal contact between the manufacturers of the airframe, and the engine manufacturers. Both sides are already deeply familiar with each others product, so this could probably work for some time. S7 shows up at Energomash with a booster frame, and pays Energomash to install it. I would imagine there is a large cadre of Ukrainians and Russians who are very familiar with operating the engine/airframe interface. Also consider this gives the Russians an economic lever to hold over the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians need this far more than the Russians do. So in the political trade off between the two sides, both might try to make this work. The Ukrainians to keep a treasured state enterprise alive, and the Russians to ensure the Ukraine does not drift too far from the Russian/slavic camp. Or gods forbid, begin a new alternative center of Slavic identity by going Western and succeeding.

    Zenit has a special place in my heart, because in the overall evolution of launch vehicles schools of evolution, I think Falcon spawned from the Zenit school of vehicle design, and launch operations. With Zenit taking it’s cues from our old Thor LV. It will be interesting to see what is done with Zenit should it be kept alive. A Zenit evolved to Falcon, launched and landed at sea would be a fascinating combination of capabilities.

  • publiusr

    It would have been nice to see Sea Launch as a platform for Falcon–with the booster both launching and landing at sea.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    When Sea Launch announced a buyer, I thought it would have been Space X for just the reason you pointed out. How wrong I was.

    Sea Launch makes a lot of sense for the Russians. It gives them access to low inclinations on their own terms. Depending on how much they want to push things in Eastern Europe (Ukraine and the Baltics) access to ESA’s launch facilities might become an issue. Before the declaration of Novo-Russia in the Crimea, I’d never have thought relations would get remotely that bad. They’re still not, but we’re probably only two or so more crisis away from that becoming a option for the EU to exercise, esp now that the Germans have a like minded ally in the French presidency, and the UK’s major backers of BREXIT just made a major political miscalculation. Russia will try to wedge the EU and NATO apart, and at some point access to Guiana might become an issue in response.

  • duheagle

    You make a lot of very good points here. The only thing I question is the relative importance of this deal to Ukraine and Russia. The importance to Ukraine is obvious and major. But Roscosmos/Energia is looking at an approaching sunset for its RD-180 deal with ULA. The RD-191 deal with Orbital-ATK depends on the decidedly problematic future of Antares.

    R7 will probably do all its launches for Western clients. By selling engines to R7, Roscosmos/Energia is, in effect, still selling engines to the West, but at one remove. Western money still comes to Russia. Given the precipitous decline in Russia’s financial condition over the past three years, I think the Russians may want this deal as badly as the Ukrainians.

  • duheagle

    It could launch and land on the same platform during any mission for which a return to launch site recovery is now possible, but one would still need an ASDS for things such as GEO comsat missions.

  • publiusr

    I thought the EU started all this by forcing Ukraine to pick a side. They wanted to trade with both the EU and Russia.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Yes, I did not look at it this way. I see your point. If they’re going to try to use Zenit to regain the losses they’ve taken from Falcon, without evolving Zenit to Falcon like re-use, I wonder how they’ll close the price gap and still make that all important profit to keep the enterprise going.

  • duheagle

    Agree about Sea Launch’s value to the Russians.

    But I think if the Russians wanted to take any more of Ukraine than they’ve already got they’d have done it before the invertebrate Obama left office.

    Crimea was essentially a bolt-from-the-blue operation. Russia’s measly incursions into Eastern Ukraine lacked strategic surprise and have come much harder and at a far higher price. Shooting down that big airliner pretty much eliminated any significant allies Putin might otherwise have had to pressure the U.S. and EU on sanctions. The Bear stands alone.

    Putin, taking a page from Trump, most probably wants to keep all parties involved guessing what, if anything, is next. But I don’t think he any longer has nearly the money nor the motivation to push things in Ukraine as was the case in 2014. The Bear will do its best to put on at least the appearance of hibernation for an indefinite time.

  • duheagle

    More like the other way around. Russia didn’t want Ukraine to have even junior associate status with the EU. For a lot of other former captive nations, that had been the usual first step to joining NATO.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Ukraine independence seems to have achieved support of 2/3rds or more of the population. And the political mixup there is how to maintain independence from Russia, not whether. Other than Crimea which trades hands on a regular basis, the Ukraine has, so far, won. However, the Russians can play a very Crimea like hand in the Baltics and other Eastern European nations.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Ukraine has a deep history of running from Russia, and being re-captured and being made to pay for running. Much of Ukraine wants to be Slavic in the Polish style. Western by structure of economy and government, and Slavic by culture with their own Orthodox and Catholic flavors. Just as the Poles have been for centuries. The recent re-run of past history has been led by many poles of interest. The Russian pole, Ukrainians who are Western learning, those who want to lean West but fear Russian retribution, Russophile Ukranians, Russian colonists planted there by the USSR to ensure close ties to Russia, and the various ethnic camps and their various claim’s to Crimea. Then of course the EU, and the US. Each has their own particular take on what happened, and who forced what, and what it all means. It’s important to take in all their stories, because all of them raise good points, but put emphasis or denigrate other variables. In the end the result is much the same, 2/3rds of Ukrainian peoples want to be part of the West. In fact they want to be the bridge between the West and Russia. I think it’s their historical mission given them by geography. They’ll teach the Russians how to moderate and bring their governing and economic practices into the 2nd half of the 20th cen. Needless to say, this grates the Russians to no end at the prospect of it. One Poland is an insult, but two? Take it as you will, after being caught in limbo between East and West since 1991, the Ukraine is still trying to lean West, and the State Dept handing out $20 on the Maidan is not going to convince people to stand and get shot. Something else, far more deep, is giving them the courage to withstand the punishment of the Russians and the corruption of their leaders.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    Hey! It could happen! You could even get the ball rolling by sending your suggestion off to Mr Musk. Why just be an armchair forum messenger?

  • duheagle

    I wonder the same thing. I can’t say I’m optimistic about the long-term success of this venture, but it’s good to see space assets being repurposed and still another entity stepping up to the plate.

    Actually beating SpaceX may not even be part of the plan. Western satellite operators have come to really like SpaceX, but they like options even more. The options are all, now, more expensive, but the competition for second-cheapest is still very much a thing. S7 has a legit shot at taking the silver medal.

    I suspect that’s the general idea. If so, they might have a few good years. The Indians could, in principle, be a problem in the near term, but they seem too production-limited in practice. The Chinese have ITAR to limit them. Ariane 6 is not looking to be a low-price contender. The real problem is likely to come when Blue rolls out New Glenn. That might relegate Sea Launch/Zenit to bronze status.

    It’s going to be an interesting next few years.

  • duheagle

    Yup. Nothing like a little Russian invasion to clarify attitudes and get the fence-sitters to pick a side. It turns out even a lot of the Russian-speaking Ukrainian population would rather be ruled by Kiev than Moscow – probably even a majority of it.

    As for potential Ukraine-like incursions by Russia elsewhere in the “near abroad” – no, the Russians really don’t have that option. The Baltics and most of the rest of the old Warsaw Pact are now NATO front-line states. Mess with any of those and Article 5 comes into play.

    The only places the main Russian land mass any longer butts directly up against NATO are Estonia and Latvia. To get at any other NATO territory, Russia would have to either do a “hook” through Latvia – which would lengthen its supply lines – or go through Belarus on the way. Which also makes for long supply lines. The dictator of Belarus would be unlikely to welcome the “opportunity” for his entire nation to become a no-man’s land between Russia and the contiguous NATO countries.

    There is also the fact that Russia has a sizable piece of disconnected territory completely surrounded by NATO signatory nations – the Kaliningrad Oblast – that is home to one of its largest and most important naval bases. In any general conflict with NATO, this place is not defensible for long. The Poles and Lithuanians would be all over it in a flash.

    I think Putin has been forced by circumstances to put restoration of the empire on hold for now. He got Crimea cheaply, but has paid a high price for very little additional in Eastern Ukraine. Russia simply lacks the financial resources to put multiple field armies into combat.

    Our job, should we chose to accept it, is to see to it that said “circumstances” continue indefinitely until Russia ceases to be a matter of concern. I believe this to be possible on a much lower-cost basis than was the case with Containment 1.0 during the Cold War. Russia is much smaller and much poorer even than the old Soviet Union. We also have a great deal more leverage to apply than we did back in the day.

    Change of subject: I neglected earlier to address what you said in a previous comment about Brexit. The Conservative Party suffered the recent reverse in electoral fortunes. But it was UKIP, not the Tories, who ramrodded the campaign for Brexit. The Tories were quite split on the matter and the current PM, Teresa May, was a prominent Remain-er. The recent election was about many things, but Brexit wasn’t really among the main ones. If it had been, the UKIP wouldn’t have virtually disappeared from Parliament. The Tories, in any event, will still be the ruling party, just with a razor-thin coalition majority. The next PM – as I don’t think May has more than weeks, or perhaps even days, left in her tenure – will also be Tory. It wouldn’t surprise me if said new PM is also someone from the pro-Brexit faction.

  • duheagle

    Yes, the details are complicated and the history is long, deep and also complicated. But you put your finger on the straightforward bottom line – the Ukrainians don’t want their country to be a satrapy of Russia as it was of the vanished Russia of the czars and the also-vanished USSR. And they’ll fight to keep that from happening again.

    Russia will likely never accept its permanently diminished status in the world, but that hardly matters. Reality will be incrementally forced upon it one way or another. Given its collapsing population, Russia may no longer even be a nation state 100 years hence. If it is, it may be a state much further diminished from its current embodiment, territorially as well as demographically.

    Even if, as I think likely, the current Chinese regime is toppled in favor of something less dictatorial, it seems likely that a few decades down the road China will be the sovereign in Siberia rather than Russia. This could come about via conquest, but is far more likely to occur via purchase, just as the U.S. got Alaska from a czar.

  • publiusr

    He probably doesn’t have the money for Sea Launch. Bezos does–but New Glenn is too large. Zenit and Falcon are about the same size and class–single core.