Boeing expected to dump its stake in Sea Launch

AP News
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Posted: Nov 12, 2009 7:00 PM

The president of Sea Launch Co. said he expects Boeing Co. to drop all or most of its ownership of the international partnership, which is reorganizing under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Kjell Karlsen said he doesn't expect Boeing to commit any more capital to the venture, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

"I would like to see Boeing being part of the new Sea Launch, but it's more likely they will work in a supplier capacity and not in an ownership role," Karlsen told the newspaper.

Boeing spokesman Joe Tedino declined to speculate on the company's future with Sea Launch.

Chicago-based Boeing owns 40 percent of the company. Its partners are RSC Energia of Moscow, SDO Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash of Ukraine and Aker ASA Group of Norway.

Home-ported in Long Beach, Calif., Sea Launch uses a self-propelled rocket platform and command ship to launch heavy satellites into geostationary orbit from the equatorial Pacific, where the physics of the location maximize a booster's lift capacity.

The company also has begun conducting land launches from Kazakhstan for medium-weight satellites.

Sea Launch filed for Chapter 11 in June after an arbitrator ordered it to pay Hughes Network Systems $52 million in a dispute over a contract cancellation.

Hughes had switched a satellite to a different launch provider after a Sea Launch rocket exploded upon liftoff in January 2007, destroying a communications satellite and blowing a 300-ton gas deflector off the platform. It was a year before Sea Launch put another satellite into orbit.

Boeing said in a June 24 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the Chapter 11 filing triggered a requirement to pay $448 million in Sea Launch indebtedness that Boeing and one other partner had guaranteed. Since then, Boeing has been seeking reimbursement from Sea Launch and the other partners.

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Sea Launch announced this week that it has received court permission to secure up to $12.5 million in financing from the investor group Space Launch Services LLC to continue operations.

"We are planning to emerge from Chapter 11 next spring and continue to provide reliable launch services for our current and prospective customers." Karlsen said in a statement.

The company is scheduled to launch a video and data services satellite for Intelsat Ltd. from Kazakhstan this month. That will be the company's fourth and final launch of 2009.