Space Industry in Ukraine: Successful Launch

Rocket launch

Ukraine has every right to be proud of its space industry. Its engineers participated in the development of the Vostok launch vehicle, which carried cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in the first human journey to near-Earth orbit in 1961, and also took part in the programme to create NASA’s Antares rocket system, whose first launch occurred in 2013.

Ukraine inherited the best portion of the Soviet space industry enterprises after the USSR’s collapse, with 130 design bureaus, research institutes, industrial associations and testing centres situated in the newly independent country.

Despite the economic difficulties, Ukraine’s space sector has been developing successfully, with a 12.7% year-on-year increase up to 1.58 billion hryvnias in I-II quarters 2018 as the State Space Agency of Ukraine says.

Central to space industry is Dnipro‘s Yangel Pivdenne state design office (Pivdenne SDO) and the State Enterprise “Production Association Pivdenny Machine-Building Plant named after A.M. Makarov” (Pivdenmash), whose performance traditions span both the Soviet era and the period of Ukraine’s independence. Since 1991, Ukraine has launched over 150 rockets and more than 370 spacecrafts.

Sich 1, the first Ukrainian satellite, was launched into orbit in August 1995. It was followed, more than 15 years on, by Sich 2, Sich 2m and Sich 3-O. In April 1999, Ukraine launched its first Dnipro rocket based on the world's most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile SS-18 (NATO reporting name Satan). Also during that year, the country first launched the Zenit rocket system. Zenit have since been used commercially in 36 launches.

Yangel Pivdenne SDO took part in the development of the US launch vehicle Antares, which has been operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation since 2013 to launch NASA supply vehicles towards the International Space Station. Two such launches were performed by Orbital Sciences Corporation and Pivdenne SDO in 2018 alone.

The year 2003 saw the launch of the joint Ukrainian/Brazilian project Cyclone-4 to develop a launch vehicle for Brazil’s Alcantara Launch Centre and build a space launch testing ground in Ukraine. The project was eventually folded following repeated postponements to the rocket’s first launch. In March 2017, Yangel Pivdenne SDO reported that the joint effort had been resumed. The state design office is currently working to develop a rocket for the Canadian company Maritime Launch Services Ltd, which wants to be able to deliver freight to near-Earth orbit.

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Cooperation with Brazil eventuated in the construction of a space launch testing ground in Ukraine’s Dnipro Region which is an almost 100% exact replica of Alcantara. The project took two years to complete, and was revealed in 2012.

Pivdenne SDO and the the State Enterprise Pivdenmash are involved in the ESA’s Vega launch vehicle programme. The Ukrainian partners have been contracted to manufacture a total of 20 engines for the Vega rocket.

In December 2018, Pivdenne SDO commissioned a multirole test centre that will integrate space rocketry and aerospace avionics systems.

The Ukrainian government in March 2018 adopted the national space programme through to the year 2022.

As per the document, the country will be cooperating with the ESA, increasing the salaries of the State Space Agency’s of Ukraine personnel, promoting space-related university research and launching a number of indigenous spacecraft, including Ukraine’s first telecom satellite Lybid and the upgraded Sich 2-1 remote Earth sensing craft to obtain high-resolution imaging data and infrared images of Earth surface.

The national space programme will command a budget of some $885 million. Still not close to NASA’s funding but better than the level of the past four years with their budgets of under $1 million.

The State Space Agency’s of Ukraine will have its budget cut in 2019, to 2.1 billion hryvnias from 2018’s 2.5 billion.

However, the Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Groysman has promised that the country’s space sector will be taken care of: “We are working to attracting foreign investment for the purpose of revitalising our production potential and implementing academic and applied projects.”

Author: Pavlo Kharlamov

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