What Has Happened To The Ukrainian Space Industry, If Anything Has

By Viacheslav Pronskyi

In light of the recent social and political events in the Eastern Europe and, as the result, appearance of diverse information about their influence on the Ukrainian space industry, it was decided to describe below, where it is possible, corresponding facts and reasons and, where it is not, authorial opinion and conclusions with regards to this topic.

Ukrainian space industry unites 30 enterprises with the total of 23 000 employees. In the first half-year of 2014 they made combined products for the total amount of 1.2 billion UA hryvnas ($93 million under the current exchange rate), which is 12% more than the same period a year ago. However, in July 2013 UAH-USD exchange rate was 8 to 1, but now it is 12–13 to 1 (more than 50% increase). This means that the rise of products’ value in US dollars is negative. Accurate figures cannot be presented, because UA hryvna’s exchange rate has fluctuated the whole 2014.

Launch of Zenit-3SL with Eutelsat 3B

On May 26, 2014, there was conducted successful launch of Zenit-3SL launch vehicle (made in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine) with Eutelsat 3B communications satellite. That was the first mission of Sea Launch consortium since February 2013, when the same launcher failed to deliver into orbit Intelsat 27 satellite. Although Sea Launch returned to the world’s launch services market, soon after it announced “a series of cost-reduction measures… to address an upcoming gap in the launch manifest”. According to the plan, it is expected to resume its launch activity in 2015–2016.

Land Launch, which also uses three-staged Zenit launcher, planned to conduct one space launch in 2014, just as in 2013. However, its anticipated mission of the first Ukrainian telecommunications satellite, Lybid-1, will likely be postponed until early 2015, this time due to the necessity to replace spacecraft’s ground control station from Crimea to Kiev region.

As it is known, last year there were conducted two launches of Dnepr rockets, converted from the missiles also made in Dnipropetrovsk. This year there has been performed one Dnepr launch from Yasny base in Russia – on June 19 – with 33 spacecraft, one of which was the first Ukrainian CubeSat. Another Dnepr mission, with 5 Japanese satellites and Asnaro-1 as main payload, is being readied now.

Vega 4th Stage’s RD-869 Engine

Besides, Ukraine took part in two successful launches of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket (where it is responsible for the first stage, except for engines) and a launch of European Vega small-class launcher (4th stage of which is powered by liquid rocket engine, made by Ukrainian Yuzhnoye SDO design bureau and Yuzhmash manufacturing plant). One more launch of both Antares and Vega are expected for this fall. Moreover, Ukrainian enterprises plan to ship 2 first stages and 3 main engines for Antares and Vega rockets, respectively, by the end of the year.

Ukrainian-Brazilian Cyclone-4 Project remains a problematic issue, though. The date of the first launch of Cyclone-4 rocket from Alcantara Launch Site has been shifted several times, and now it is officially scheduled for the end of 2015. However, taking into account likely lack of financing from the Ukrainian side and upcoming Presidential elections in Brazil, after which local authorities’ attitude towards the Project may be changed, the terms indicated above seem to be optimistic ones.

Nevertheless, official website of Alcantara Cyclone Space, the company responsible for Cyclone-4 Project implementation and marketing, informed late September that a new batch of electric equipment, made by ELKOR (Ukraine), has been recently shipped to Brazil in order to be used at the launch site in Alcantara. It is known also that number of other Ukrainian enterprises are manufacturing and testing ground support equipment components to be shipped to Brazil once they are ready.

Construction of Launch Complex at the Alcantara Launch Site

Interesting to note that average Ukrainian space industry’s employee is 46, and this age decreases. Also, it should be made clear that Ukraine forbids export of military goods to Russia, except for space products that are used for peaceful space exploration within international space projects.

Thus, talking on the short-term impact of Ukrainian-Russian conflict on space industry of the former, it may be concluded that there were almost no changes comparing to 2013, not only with regards to cooperation with Western partners, but also with Russian ones.

Referring to long-term perspectives, although currently it is difficult to make corresponding forecasts, there are solid reasons to be optimistic. Why? Since Ukrainian independence in 1991 governmental support of Ukrainian space industry has not exceeded as much as $50 million, if not $20 million, so the industry used to be market-oriented and highly commercialized. And, as it is commonly known, commercial companies far better adopted to changes of business environment…

Information was retrieved from the following websites: http://space.com.ua/, http://rian.com.ua/, http://www.sea-launch.com/, http://nkau.gov.ua/ and http://www.alcantaracyclonespace.com/en/.

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