New ‘heavy’ rocket & $5mn launch price tag: Russia’s S7 plans for Sea Launch revealed

Russian space producer RSC Energia announced it will create a state of the art rocket for the Sea Launch program taken over by the Russian S7-group, with a launch price tag of $5mn.

At a press conference on Friday, director of RSC Energia Vladimir Solntsev said that his company is already working on a brand new “super-heavy carrier rocket” for the project run by S7. According to the official, the development could last up to five years.

The rocket in question, named Sunkar, is currently being developed by RSC Energia and can be created within five years if there is enough financing, Izvestia  citing an earlier statement by Solntsev.

On September 27, Russia’s largest private aviation holding company S7 Group signed a deal to purchase the Sea Launch space program, operated by RSC Energia. S7 Group CEO Vladislav Filev called the deal a “ticket to space” for his company.

The project includes the ship Sea Launch Commander, the Odyssey Launch Platform, as well as various pieces of support equipment and a port facility in Long Beach, California. With the deal, S7 plans to revive space launches from the platform, which were halted in 2014.

S7 has also signed a separate contract with RSC Energia, saying it wants to use “the knowledge” of the company to boost the joint project.

Solnzev announced that RSC Energia is “developing a brand new rocket carrier” for the Sea Launch.

Filev, who also participated in Friday’s press conference, said that while the Russian space industry remains “at the most advanced stages of world science,” its achievements should be “monetized.”

The CEO noted that while his company has enough resources to invest in RSC Energia projects for a certain period of time, attracting more private investors should be a key goal.

“The launch of one satellite is 250 million rubles [$4mn], plus 70 million [$1.1mn] for the launch itself. That [comes to] 320 million [$5mn] – this is one [launch]. If we want to launch five satellites per year – it will be 1.6 billion [$25mn] per year,” Filev said.

He added that though his company will not be able to cover the full expenses each year, turning to private actors could solve the problem. The CEO predicts that in the future, more private companies will “buy rockets” and launches from the space launch sites.

Filev also signaled his readiness to work with Ukraine and continue purchasing their carrier rockets for Sea Launch. Until 2014, the space project used Ukrainian launch vehicles of type Zenit-3SL, though following the conflict in the country and political tensions with Moscow, the cooperation came to a halt.

“We want them [Ukraine] to make rockets for us,” Filev said during the briefing. The Ukrainian Zenit-3SL producer Yuzhmash “welcomed” the move, saying that the first rockets can be assembled and delivered in 2017.

The headquarters of Space Launch, currently in Switzerland, will be moved to Moscow as the project aims to become “completely Russian,” Filev and Solzev announced on Friday. It is estimated that it will operate for at least 15 more years, according to the officials.

The first Sea Launch rocket blasted off in March 1999. By 2013, the company launched 31 rockets carrying communications satellites into orbit. Out of those, three missions resulted in failures and one partial failure.