On July 7, a Delta-IV strategic submarine of the Northern Fleet launched a German research satellite from the Barents Sea aboard a missile designed to carry four nuclear warheads more than 8,000 kilometers. The Makeyev design bureau–Russia’s premier designer of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs)–modified one of its RSM-54 missiles to carry the 10-kilogram Tubsat-N research satellite developed by the Berlin Technical University. Some reports indicated that the booster was fired while the submarine was submerged. The satellite was said to have been successfully placed into a low-Earth orbit. (Russian and international media, July 7)
In 1993, a group of former Russian and American naval officers began working with Makeyev to develop a commercial space launch vehicle based on the RSM-54-known to NATO as the SS-N-23-and the larger SS-N-20. They formed a joint venture named Sea Launch Investors–a plan eclipsed in 1995 by the formation of the multi-national Sea Launch project. In that project, the American aerospace firm Boeing joined with Ukraine’s NPO Yuzhnoye, Russia’s Energia and the Norwegian firm Kvaerner Maritime. Instead of using the surplus SLBMs they chose the Ukrainian-built Zenit space-booster coupled with additional engines from Energia. The Sea Launch venture hopes to conduct its first launch this October. The July 7 submarine launch shows that Makeyev and the Russian Navy still hope to garner some profit from the lucrative satellite-launching business.
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