Space City that nobody knows about

The space industry is booming these days and of course, the first names that come to your mind are SpaceX, Blue Origin, NASA. The US has done an incredible work in terms of investing in space exploration and is definitely a leader in the industry now.

In the meantime, in another part of the world, in a war-torn Ukraine, there is a city, the name of which is extremely hard to pronounce — Dnipropetrovsk (recently renamed into Dnipro). Located in the East of the country the city was closed until 1987 for foreigners because of the top secret rocket building facilities. Almost in the downtown, there is a small “city” — a factory called Yuzhmash that takes the central part in the hearts of its citizens. The whole culture of the city is built around its glorious rocket building past.

Yuzhmash is an aerospace manufacturer that produces spacecrafts, rockets, liquid-propellant rockets, landing gears and much more. Not many people know but it works with international aerospace partners in 23 countries including NASA and Orbital ATK in the USA. At the same time near the city, there is a Pavlograd Chemical factory that has been producing rocket fuel for different types of spacecrafts. In 1991–2013 80% of space industry of the city came from its partnership with Russia. But due to the recent conflict with Russia the tough times came over.

The culture and history of Dnipropetrovsk are built around space. Some of the strongest and most prominent aerospace universities (and even a rocket building community college) are here with the graduates taking upon jobs in leading global space companies. The National Aerospace Educational Center works to provide insights into the practical side of the space industry, as well as exhibits some core parts of famous rockets.

At this moment the city has accumulated an enormous amount of professionals with a unique set of skills in mechanical, chemical and software engineering. Dnipropetrovsk is known as one of the biggest outsourcing hubs in Europe with over 30 tech companies having their offices there. A good example is Archer Software, that has an experience of building such applications like an Astra Space and Astra Solar — geolocation mobile applications for a scientific US company providing data about ionic layers and contents of the atmosphere.

Space industry’s recent growth combined with such a powerful engineering background of the city has created a new wave in the quiet pond. Now the city can boast a space incubator — SpaceHub. This incubator is designed to become the powerhouse of scientific and engineering projects.

Such a strong concentration of aerospace history, education and culture has resulted in a Spacer Hackathon. With live connections to NASA and Deep Space Industries; talks with international space startups and an astronaut attending the event, the hackathon brought together space engineers and enthusiasts (photo report). In the end, not one, but two teams took the first place: Laser Correction System and Prime-115. Ukrainian State Space Agency and Yuzhmash factory were so surprised with the high quality of technical innovations that both pledged their support to the winners in moving both projects further.

The Laser Correction System team has designed a way to maintain CubeSats on the target orbit and withdraw them into the dense layers of the atmosphere upon the lifetime expiration by using the medium-power laser (10 kW) in combination with a high precision ground-based telescope.

Another winning project, Prime-115, is a conceptual new type of Mars exploration flying platform based on a quadcopter. The main idea was to find a possible configuration of aerodynamic and mechanical solution that will work in low viscosity atmosphere, have enough ascensional power to fly and lift a bunch of scientific equipment, and be as compact as possible to be delivered to Mars.

Dnipropetrovsk has always been a Space City, as locals have been calling it. Now, it’s time for the rest of the world to hear the amazing stories of this little town that’s ready to blast off!