Paul Duffy/MOSCOW

The Sea Launch commercial satellite launch venture being headed by Boeing, together with partners in Norway, Russia and Ukraine, has completed construction of the two vessels that will support the operation.

The Sea Launch Commander rocket assembly plant and mission control centre ship built by Kvaerner's Govan shipyard in Glasgow, UK, has been loaded with the first two Sea Launch booster components at St Petersburg, Russia.

The Odyssey self-propelled, semi-submersible launch platform, a former oil rig modified by Kvaerner in Stavanger, Norway, is being fitted with more than 300t of automated booster handling equipment at Vyborg, Russia.

Both vessels will head for the Sea Launch home port of Long Beach, California, the Sea Commander arriving in July, after additional sea tests, and the Odyssey in August, via the Panama Canal.

The first Sea Launch mission - a Zenit 3 booster comprising Ukraine's Zenit 2 with a Russian DM third stage from the Proton - will carry the Hughes-built Galaxy XI communications satellite into orbit later this year from a location in the Pacific Ocean. The company has firm contracts for 17 other launches, 12 from Hughes and five from Space Systems/Loral.

"Six launches a year will give us payback," says Allen Ashby, Sea Launch president. "We have the capacity to take two launchers out at a time. For now, we will return to base after each launch, but may revise this in the future," he adds.

Source: Flight International