After purchasing Sea Launch company by S7 group, future of this innovative launch service provider was unsure. Problems caused by lack of the sufficient number of rockets compatible with sea platform seemed not to bother extensively new owner. Now it seems that problem seemed to be resolved.
Sea Launch was acquired from Energia corporation in October 2016 by Russian S7 group managed by CEO Vladislav Filev. Sea Launch, which was launching Zenit-3SL liquid fueled rocket from special sea platform suffered for financial problems and had problems with its contractor providing Zenit rockets – Ukrainian Company Yuzhnoe Design Office. Soon after changing the owner, new management announced ambitious plans of returning to flights within following year and increasing budget for developing new launch vehicle within following five years. According to statements given by Company, it was possible to resign from Zenit and replace it with different rocket, probably offered by one from Russian companies.
It seems that help for Sea Launch could come from outside the Russian space industry. According to China News Network (July 6, 2017) China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation is considering modificating their ultimate solid fueled rocket for launching from sea platforms. Long March 11 is smaller comparing to Zenit-3SL, rocket dedicated for Sea Launch platform. It is long for 20 m (with cargo capacity for LEO at 750 kg), when Zenit is long for 59.6 m and is able to deliver almost 6 t to GTO orbit. Of course it can not be compared to Zenit in terms of cargo capability, but it could be delivered to Sea Launch already in 2018 in a great number. If Yuzhnoe Design Office would not be able to deliver Zenit rockets (what is mostly possible due the political tensions between Russia and Ukraine) Sea Launch could simply purchase Long March rockets and contract some missions to reduce costs of preserving not used sea platform. Still Company could decide to invest additional money and create joint venture with China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation and develop own rocket by modificating any adequate Chinese rocket. Such rocket is already developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation; it is Long March 8 with estimated cargo capacity at 2.5 t for GTO. Both are not requiring any significant changes in the construction of Sea Launch, not to mention that due the fact that they are solid fueled, costs of delivering and pre flight preparations is much lower. In this way Sea Launch could acquire launch vehicle comparable to Zenit probably at the same cost as from Yuzhnoe.
Chinese space industry seems to started to enter international market (including offering their rockets to Russian companies, which until now were rather preferring cooperation with Russian launch service providers) pretty strongly with their solid fueled small and medium rockets. Kuaizhou-1A (launched in January 2017) and planned Long March rockets have in fact not many competitive constructions on the market. Most of the rockets able to deliver payload to orbit are large and liquid fueled. Smallest, but due combined solid-liquid fueling system Indian PSLV is still rather larger rocket and its launch is not possible without long launch campaign. It is possible that China will dominate market of small and medium sized solid fueled rockets leaving no place for American, Russian or European Companies, which at the moment are not able to offer any competitive launch vehicles for similar price.