Chief Economist of Yuzhny State Enterprise machine-building plant named after A.M. Makarov "(Yuzhmash) Dmitry Nikon worked as a manager of the Russian-American-Ukrainian space project" Sea Launch ". He agreed to tell the details of the project and answer questions about the prospects for using the Black Sea for such a project.
Tell us more about the Sea Launch project. How did it all begin?
This is the largest project since Ukraine gained independence to the present time, in which Yuzhmash has participated.
Companies from the USA, Russia, Ukraine and Norway were involved in its implementation. During the work, specialists from Poland, the Philippines, Great Britain and other countries were involved. A tremendous experience was gained in terms of international cooperation.
To implement the project, it was necessary to resolve issues at the state level, seek support in the ministries and departments of various countries. This was one of the first experiences of such work. Representatives of Yuzhmash participated in the negotiations and provided explanations. For example, for the implementation of the Sea Launch project, Sea Launch took loans from various foreign commercial banks, these banks demanded “political risk guarantees” provided by the World Bank. Yuzhmash had to work with the World Bank and with the authorities of Ukraine: the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SSAU.
Besides, for the project implementation it was necessary to solve technical problems. Almost no one in the world has ever launched a Zenith-like rocket from an offshore platform in the middle of the ocean.
To organize the supply of components and materials to Yuzhmash, we had to work with the government agencies of Russia, and in order to organize the delivery of rocket and space technology to America, we had to work with the US government agencies. That is, this was done for the first time, and before we had such work experience. These were the first main steps of Yuzhmash in this project.
Was this the first commercial order of Yuzhmash of this scale?
Yes. For the first time, we have a non-state customer. Practically for the first time, because, already in the years of independence, the first experience in the international space program was the Globalstar program, a contract with which for launching rockets from Baikonur, Yuzhmash was signed on May 3, 1995, and an agreement was signed literally 2-3 days later on the establishment of the Sea Launch company. That is, in May 1995 we had two such important events at once: the first contract and the signing of constituent documents on the deployment of work under the Sea Launch program. These two programs have been running concurrently for a while.
What experience has Yuzhmash gained?
Until 1992, in the field of rocket and space technology, Yuzhmash worked, as a rule, with government customers: first with the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union, then with the Russian Federation, with Glavkosmos, Roskosmos, and the National Space Agency. It was a great experience. But it was slightly different from the one we acquired later when working with the Sea Launch commercial order. We had a completely different structure of contracts, a completely different level of negotiations, a different settlement system, that is, everything was completely new for us.
When concluding the contract, the structure of the Boeing company contract was taken as a basis, and in many ways the structure of the contracts we signed in 1998-2000 has been preserved at the enterprise to this day.
How were the missiles transported to the United States?
From the point of view of transportation, we had to solve a large range of logistics problems. Previously, the rocket was delivered by rail to the Baikonur cosmodrome and other launch sites of the Soviet Union. For Sea Launch, we first used shipping by sea in the United States. The first two missiles were sent through St. Petersburg. Subsequent ones were delivered by land transport to the port of Nikolaev. It was necessary to resolve issues with the management of the port: how will the transshipment of railway connections to special transport vehicles be carried out, how these funds will be brought into the hold of the ship. We also solved the problem of transporting a rocket to the United States. In addition, it was necessary to provide for the operating conditions: the influence of the marine environment, a different air humidity, it was necessary to provide air drying systems. These works were carried out jointly with the designers. There was a problem and unloading from a ship in the United States, new equipment was needed, new operations.