Project Sea Launch

Jim Varney (
Sun, 22 Jun 1997 10:23:33 -0700

I found this news article interesting.  Anyone know a more precise location
description (or lat/long) of the Project Sea Launch site?


Governments jealously keep equatorial launch sites

By Alexander Miles 

LE BOURGET, France, June 22 (Reuter) - Countries with rocket-launching
centres close to the equator are jealously guarding them as launch
companies from higher latitudes come knocking at the door, space officials
attending the Paris air show said. 

Most communications satellites are launched into geostationary orbit -- an
orbit directly over the equator -- and satellites set off close to the
equator require less powerful rockets to reach this. 

They also use less fuel to get them to their final orbit, leaving them more
reserves to keep them from drifting out of it. Extra years in space can
mean millions of dollars of revenues for operators. 

Europe's Arianespace has best exploited this. 

It launches the Ariane-4 rocket series from the European Space Agency (ESA)
centre in Kourou, French Guiana, on the northeast coast of South America. 

The base, located just four degrees north of the equator, has helped the
company capture half the world's satellite launch market. 

By contrast the U.S. Kennedy Space Centre in Florida is 28 degrees north of
the equator. The Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, used by Russia, is
about 47 degrees north. 

Arianespace president Charles Bigot, who is due to retire next month, has
long supported the idea of opening the Kourou base to outside competitors,
notably from the U.S. 

His rationale has been that if Arianespace is to continue to lead the
market it must collaborate to a certain extent with the competition. 

But the company is controlled by French state-owned companies and
organisations. The French Space Agency (CNES) alone holds a 32 percent
share of Arianespace, runs the Kourou base for ESA and has so far opposed
plans to open it to outside companies. 

``Kourou is Europe's space-port, its first objective is to bring to the
Ariane launch family and Europe's launchers an advantage in a competitive
context (that is) more and more difficult,'' CNES president Alain
Bensoussan told a news conference on Tuesday. 

``Kourou is an element that contributes to European launcher
competitiveness. Today that is a fundamental objective. 

``Of course, we can study and have discussions (with other firms) but in no
case can we deviate from the essential and fundamental role of the port,''
Bensoussan said. 

Two degrees south of the equator lies Brazil's Alcantara space centre,
giving launch companies the same potential equatorial advantages as Kourou. 

``We've had discussions with everyone; the Americans, Russians, Ukrainians,
Chinese,'' said Brazilian Space Agency president Luiz Gylvan Meira Filho.
``But so far we haven't come to any firm agreements.'' 

Other projects to build equatorial launch centres in northern Australia,
New Guinea, Hawaii and east Africa have failed to obtain the massive
funding required. 

U.S aerospace giant Boeing, in partnership with Norwegian and Ukrainian
firms, has developed a project to launch at sea from a converted drilling
platform towed to an isolated Pacific atoll near the equator. 

Project Sea Launch has scheduled its first launch for late next year and
has already signed several satellite contracts with major operators. 
Jim Varney     Sacramento, CA