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World Bank to Serve as Sea Launch Booster

Aerospace: Loan guarantees will benefit partner firms behind project to fire rockets from oil platforms.

June 05, 1997|From Times staff and wire reports

The World Bank is putting its financial muscle behind Sea Launch Co., an innovative but controversial project based in Long Beach to launch satellites from sea, bank officials in Washington said Wednesday.

The multimillion-dollar project will use a converted and mobile oil-drilling platform to launch the satellites from a remote location in international waters about 1,000 miles south of Hawaii. Boeing Co. is the venture's lead partner, and firms from Russia, Ukraine and Norway are also involved.

"Sea Launch exemplifies a new, groundbreaking era in industrial cooperation in which former Cold War enemies are now working together in a nonmilitary context to put commercial satellites into orbit," World Bank Vice President Johannes Linn said.

The World Bank is not lending any money directly to the project. Instead, it will be guaranteeing two separate $100-million commercial bank loans to two partner firms--RSC Energia of Russia and Yuzhnoye, a Ukrainian rocket producer--against political risk, such as the imposition of new taxes.

Linn said the Bank's participation would help create 30,000 high-paying, high-technology jobs in Russia and Ukraine.

Sea Launch plans to send the satellites into geostationary orbit from the equator because that is where the Earth's rotational speed is the strongest. The company has already landed contracts for 18 launches, including 10 from Hughes Space and Communications International.

The first launch is scheduled for fall 1998.

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