US distressed asset investor AIAC is close to acquiring dormant ocean-based launch services provider Sea Launch, SatelliteFinance understands.
US distressed asset investor AIAC (American Industrial Acquisition Corporation) is close to acquiring dormant ocean-based launch services provider Sea Launch, SatelliteFinance understands.
Sources said the deal has been in the works since at least late last year and still requires multiple approvals. A person close to the process said AIAC had been competing against other bidders, which also went to an advanced stage in the sale process.
The companies declined to comment on the speculation.
In January Sea Launch CEO Sergey Gugkaev told SatelliteFinance the company was in talks with a new investor and was looking to secure fresh funding by the end of February, but cautioned that big transactions were always unpredictable in terms of timing.
Sea Launch, owned by Russian space agency turned state corporation Roscosmos and Moscow-based rocket maker RSC Energia, has been in hibernation since 2014 to address a gap in its manifest.
One of the options its potential new owner is thought to be considering to improve its fortunes is relocating the launching platform – a converted oil rig – from off the coast of southern California to Puerto Rico, where there have been significant efforts to develop a spaceport and grow a spaceflight business.
Last year there was speculation that the Chinese government was considering buying the platform and relocating it to international waters off China.
A non-US buyer of Switzerland-headquartered Sea Launch could face more political and regulatory issues. The launcher’s Zenit-3SL rocket is a Russian-Ukrainian collaboration while US-based Boeing, which used to partly own Sea Launch, is the firm’s original prime contractor, meaning a deal could run into US technology transfer issues under ITAR.
Zenit production has also been put on hold due to political issues between Ukraine and Russia – another factor that led to Sea Launch’s suspended operations.
Sea Launch’s current owners have also considered moving the platform to Brazil or the east of Russia in the past.