An idea more than 50 years old soon will come to fruition—the sea launch of satellites. The multinational Sea Launch system is expected to begin placing large commercial satellites in orbit later this year. Launching these payloads from open ocean locations provides great flexibility in booster launch azimuth, as well as independence from government-operated launch facilities.
The first payload launch by the Sea Launch system was scheduled to occur in late March, from a position on the equator—154° West, about 1,500 miles southeast of Hawaii.
The principal partners of Sea Launch are the Boeing Commercial Space Company of Seattle, Washington (40% share); KB Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine (15%); Kvaerner Maritime, Oslo, Norway (20%); and RSC-Energia, Moscow, Russia (25%). The project has been hailed as marking a new era in international technology cooperation as well as a major employment activity for all the countries involved.