Perspectives of Ukraine's space sector

Author : Olena Holubeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

During Soviet times, Ukraine's Yuzhmash plant manufactured up to 100 missiles a year. Ukraine abandoned its nuclear weapons and eliminated the intercontinental ballistic missiles
12:03, 6 June 2019

Read the first part of our longread here.

Yuzhmash: no orders - no missiles

Currently, Yuzhmash design office is in a rather difficult economic situation. Its main products are the Zenit-2SL, Zenit-2SLB launch vehicles, the New Energy Alliance reported: "The plant was built as a serial plant for assembling launch vehicles and intercontinental ballistic missiles. During Soviet times, the plant manufactured up to 100 missiles a year. Ukraine abandoned its nuclear weapons, eliminated the intercontinental ballistic missiles."

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High hopes were placed on the resumption of production of the Cyclone-4 launch vehicles for launches from the Alcantara cosmodrome (Brazil), developed based on the Cyclone-2 and Cyclone-3 launch vehicles. But this project was stopped.

According to Eduard Kuznetsov, an adviser to the chairman of the State Space Agency of Ukraine, in the framework of cooperation with Brazil, the construction of a cosmodrome in this country was supposed. The design documentation for the cosmodrome was developed by Yuzhnoye design office. The Cyclone-4 carrier rocket was also developed. As part of the project, the company was attracted under the terms of a public-private partnership – it was engaged in the construction of ground infrastructure, which then was partially built and now it is literally rusting. According to him, the State Space Agency of Ukraine and Yuzhnoye design office managed to find a partner in Canada, Maritime Launch Services Ltd: “The Canadian partners were offered a modernized Cyclone-4M rocket, and in a year and a half it will be built in the Nova Scotia region. Ukraine and Canada will jointly attract borrowed funds for the project.”

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At the beginning of May, the third stage of the Cyclone-4 medium-class launch vehicle was manufactured and sent for fire tests at Yuzhmash. The third degree includes a liquid-propellant rocket engine RD-861K, designed to create thrust and maneuvering. The possibility of installing the product on the Cyclone-4M rocket as a second stage will be further investigated. “For the first time in the history of Yuzhmash, all components and assemblies of such a component of the launch vehicle were made on their own without the involvement of other enterprises,” the company said. The manufacture of assemblies and assemblies were carried out according to the design documentation of Yuzhnoye design office.

There is no exact information on how many missiles the Canadians will order from Ukraine and whether it will be able to load Yuzhmash facilities by 100%.

Yuzhmash also manufactures components for European VEGA launch vehicle. In addition, it makes half of the components for the American Antares launch vehicles. The last rocket launch took place on April 17, 2019.

Valeriy Borovyk, head of the board of the New Energy Alliance of Ukraine, says organizing the production of new, non-core products on the free production areas can be a way out of Yuzhmash’s current economic situation. “For example, the plant has a practically frozen tractor production that can be used for assembly purposes or repair armored vehicles. But here the corporate policy of Ukroboronprom state defense concern works," he states.


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Yuzhnoye design office: from development to production

In the past, the Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash design offices were a single production and testing complex with a closed development and production cycle. In recent years, the bureau has been working on its own production and testing base to separate itself from the Yuzhmash. The reason for this is the personal factor – the relationship of the leaders of the two enterprises.

Funds from Yuzhnoye received from foreign orders are invested in their own production base. In particular, they purchased a modern FORTUS 900 MC 3D printer for building large-sized parts, a new painting and drying chamber for applying paint and sprayed heat-protective coatings to the surface of units, an installation for weaving carbon reinforcement cages of a 3D structure.

Yuzhnoye invests in the development of liquid sustainer engines for medium and light class launch vehicles.

Recently, the bureau announced its intention to create a Cyclone 1M light-class rocket (it will be able to bring up to 750 kg to a sun-synchronous orbit). In particular, it was reported that this particular rocket will fly from the spaceport in Ukraine.

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The issue of the commercial benefits of developing a lightweight rocket is quite controversial. "On the one hand, the forecasts of demand for launch services of small and ultra-small spacecraft for the near future are promising. For example, over the next ten years, more than 2,800 spacecraft of this class might be launched. And this figure does not take into account the mega-group of satellites from Elon Musk - StarLink project (up to 10,000 spacecraft) and from OneWeb (up to 2,400 spacecraft). But on the other hand, about 60 projects of light and ultra-light class rocket carriers are currently at various stages of development," Valeriy Borovyk assures.

The expert stressed that when developing a light launch vehicle, one of the key factors is the price of putting a payload into orbit.

There are several players on the market today: the US (Falcon-9, Delta-IV, Atlas-V), the European Union (Arian-V, Arian-VI), China, India, Russia (Proton, Angara). SpaceX with the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle is the driver that determines the direction of development in this market segment is. The indicator is the price of launching a spacecraft into a geostationary orbit. For the Falcon-9 rocket, this price is about $ 60 million, while for Arian-V (for launching two spacecraft simultaneously), this price is about 150 million euros.

“The trend is obvious. There is one more factor - the traditional “ties” of spacecraft developers to the launch vehicles. Thus, all Chinese manufacturers of geostationary spacecraft prefer to use Chinese launch vehicles. American manufacturers Boeing, SS / Loral, Orbital ATC are focused on Falcon- 9 and less often on the Delta-IV or Atlas-V. The European Airbus prefers Arian-V. By the way, prior to the freezing of the Sea Launch project, the Zenit-3SL rocket was popular,” Borovyk stated.

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Using its experience, Yuzhnoe has been developing and trying to offer its own achievements to the defense complex as well. In particular, it is working on the creation of ammunition for the Grad and Smerch multiple rocket launchers (the systems are in service with both the Ukrainian and Russian armies, while their ammunition is produced in Russia, and the stocks that were in Ukraine, dramatically exhausted).

The serial assembly of the missiles can be carried out at the Pavlohrad Mechanical Plant, which was handed over to Ukraine’s Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, which also demonstrates the competition between government agencies and tense relations between their supervisors.

Yuzhnoe design office has developed Hrim-2 missile system. “The products of the Yuzhnoe design office are practically not used in the interests of the defense of Ukraine. Even the creation of the advertised Hrim missile complex comes at the expense of attracted funds, and not at the expense of the state order. The main customers of the design bureau are foreign customers,” Valeriy Borovyk notes.

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