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Bankrupt Sea Launch Gets More Financing – Heinlein Prize Trust Involved

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
February 27, 2010
Filed under , ,

Mystery Group Invests More in Bankrupt Sea Launch
Space News

Commercial launch-services provider Sea Launch Co., which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings since June, on Feb. 25 received $3 million in cash from the same group of investors that provided an initial tranche of financing to keep the company in operation, according to documents filed with the Delaware Bankruptcy Court.

Further payments totaling $9 million will be distributed in three monthly increments starting in March on condition that Long Beach, Calif.-based Sea Launch begins to secure commercial launch contracts, according to court documents…

A group identifying itself as Space Launch Services LLC and the Heinlein Prize Trust, apparently consisting of the same people, has been paying Sea Launch’s currently minimal operating expenses since the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. This group is presumed to be among those who will take Sea Launch out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, perhaps as soon as this summer.

Whether these investors intend to finance the approximately $50 million a year or more in Sea Launch operations costs, and support the company until it resumes business operations and regular cash flow, is unclear. Space Launch Services has declined repeated requests to disclose its financial resources and its intentions.

Read the full story.

Editor’s Note: Actually, I don’t think this is much of a mystery. Sea Launch Services includes Excalibur Almaz and PlanetSpace, according to this item from dated Dec. 3:

Excalibur Almaz and PlanetSpace are working to provide exit financing through Space Launch Services, LLC (“SLS LLC”), as well as equity investment in a reorganized Sea Launch, for the purpose of sustaining reliable commercial access to space. SLS LLC is led by Bohdan (Bo) Bejmuk, an aerospace consultant with in-depth knowledge of space systems and launch vehicles.

Excalibur Almaz – based in the Isle of Man – plans to launch a private space station using refurbished Soviet-era military hardware. PlanetSpace is a U.S.-based company that has competed unsuccessfully for NASA contracts to supply the International Space Station. Major partners in PlanetSpace include Lockheed Martin, Boeing and ATK. The company’s chairman is Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, who was a major figure in MirCorp.

Sea Launch’s Zenit rockets – which are launched from an off-shore platform and the Baikonur Cosmodrome – are powerful enough to lift Excalibur Almaz’s space stations. That is a possible reason for the company’s involvement in the rescue plan.

The involvement of the Heinlein Prize Trust is a new wrinkle – but not really a surprise given its close ties to Excalibur Almaz. The Houston-based organization gives out prizes “to the individual or individuals who achieve practical accomplishments in the field of commercial space activities.” (X PRIZE founder Peter Diamandis won a $500,000 prize in 2006.) The three trustees are Excalibur Almaz CEO Art Dula, Excalibur Almaz Executive Vice President Buckner Hightower, and James M. Vaughn, who is apparently a Houston-based lawyer specializing in bankruptcy cases.

A recent report also indicated that Kazkosmos – the Kazakhstan space agency – is looking to make a $100 million investment in Sea Launch.  The investment would include infrastructure improvements at Baikonur and the purchase of shares in the Ukrainian and Russian companies that are partners in company. Sea Launch is a joint venture of Boeing (US), RSC Energia (Russia), Kvaerner (Norway), and Yuzhnoye Design Bureau (Ukraine).

2 responses to “Bankrupt Sea Launch Gets More Financing – Heinlein Prize Trust Involved”

  1. Michael Turner says:

    It’s interesting how interconnected all this is getting — maybe a sign of desperation, but perhaps more a sign of some underlying resilience. Proven people, proven hardware, an amazing degree of international cooperation. Sea Launch might be quite the undervalued collection of assets, more like NewSpace Gets Real than some other operations getting more notice these days.

  2. Marcel F. Williams says:

    A manned Sea Launch configuration could give practically any nation or city with a seaport– space faring capability.

    Sea Launch is a dark horse that could actually end up dominating the private manned and unmanned space launch industry, IMO, and could end up being emulated in some form by many other private commercial and national space programs.

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