Ukraine wants to build cosmodrome in Australia. Are you serious?

Author : Oleksiy Kushch

Source : 112 Ukraine

The space industry in Ukraine has always been perceived as a cash cow, but it has never been regarded as an industry of perspective, strategic development. It was only about developing the old scientific and technical potential practically "to the end". Now our space and aviation are still relying on the "last of the Mohicans", many of which no longer stand morally and physically and leave either for rest or for other countries - Azerbaijan, China, Saudi Arabia
23:29, 12 April 2018

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112 Agency

"And why shouldn’t we make a breakthrough?" Approximately in this vein, Ukrainian officials from the space industry argued, offering Australia to build a cosmodrome in the desert western part of the continent. Of course, the "Kosmozoo" could be a better name, but, apparently, it is decided not to contact the Australian Society for the Protection of Space Animals.

It should be noted that at the moment, the scalps of several cosmodromes are already hanging in the corridors of the Ukrainian space agency: for example, the bankrupt Sea Launch project, the Brazilian cosmodrome Alcantara, from which the new Ukrainian Cyclone-4 rocket carriers did not take off, and the cosmodrome in Canada, which might be built in the near future.

"This proposal is very realistic. Ukraine can start [launch missiles] at least tomorrow morning if we have a platform ... We offer our people and our experience if Australia has land for use, "according to the Australian press, said the Ukrainian ambassador in this country, Mykola Kulinich, in one fell swoop "lowering" the interlocutors to the level of a tree kangaroo. Like "we have rockets, you have land, - open the gate."

Judging by the publications in The West Australian, Australians took this proposal very seriously. It affects the age-old Anglo-Saxon diligence: what if they really could build, and we refused. Such proposals do not come every day. Or rather, for the first time in history. After all, how long they have been in British Commonwealth, but such a proposal was never received. Such heavy echoes of colonialism. And then unexpectedly, receiving of the message from a distant country, which many Australians knew only because of Eurovision song contest.

Under the future project on the green continent, they decided to allocate land near the air base Curtin near Derby. The construction of the facility will require an area of 5-7 thousand square km (well, this is because the rocket could be accidentally knocked down by a tomahawk). The desert places factor simplifies the procedure of public discussion with locals.

How much will the project itself cost, what is the participation of each of the parties, where to seek funding sources, has not yet been reported. Authors of the idea are modest, you can even say shy, asked only $ 500 thousand for design work. Let's just say, for a start. The very development of the feasibility study will take about two years, that is, it should be completed by 2020, when elections will be held in Ukraine, completely different officials may come to power, and the country is likely to survive some kind of default.

It is assumed that those new officials will consider the cosmodrome in Australia to be an exotic project. Well, or ask another 500 thousand for a new feasibility study.

If we consider the matter from the view of the theory, then it really has a rational part, because the northwest of Australia, based on its position relative to the equatorial part of the globe, is ideally suited for space launches: the earth's rotation force gives the rocket additional acceleration, and its withdrawal to outer space requires significantly less fuel, and therefore, you can take "on board" more useful commercial cargo.

A similar project is planned to be launched in Nova Scotia in eastern Canada. Local companies are ready to invest $ 148 million in the construction of the cosmodrome, from which the Ukrainian rockets will be launched. Canadians want to carry out up to eight launches per year.

It seems that in the next few years our space industry will be loaded if not by missile launches, then by the development of all sorts of projects. The decree of Olexander Turchynov, who declared that the State Space Agency should become a "powerful project institution", is being implemented.

By and large, space and aviation are exactly those headliners that have caused a feeling of constant pride in the country. It's another matter that in recent years all these complex technical clusters of the economy have received, probably, the most powerful demotivational blow. Yes, we still repair the giant airplane "Mriya", which ascended to the sky in 1988, and in 1994 even the engines and equipment were temporarily removed from it. But at the present time, we do not sell ready-made aircraft anymore, and we earn only on the freight transportation and sales of ready-made documentation, including intellectual property rights and production rights, as it happened with the construction of an An-132 plant in Saudi Arabia. Most of the best specialists have gone to different cities and towns of the global world.

And now in some strategic programs for the development of the country the place of space and aviation industries is already densely occupied by oilseeds and technical agricultural crops. And on the other hand, it's terrible to see the truth. It is possible to tell that we are a space power and can produce dozens of aircraft and rockets a year. But the truth is somewhat different. Ukraine already with colossal difficulty fulfills the existing contracts, for the implementation of which it lacks full-time employees, from turners to engineers.

As for new projects, in order to seriously consider them, they must first be consecrated at the highest state level - at least during the visit of the country's top officials to Canada or Australia. In the meantime, the main platform for communications between our ministers and external partners is Twitter.

In 2004, Ukraine was already trying to take part in the project of the Brazilian Alcantara cosmodrome and offered its Cyclone-4 launch vehicles, which had yet to be upgraded from Cyclone-3. But then everything began on a large scale, with the visit of President Leonid Kuchma to Brazil and the signing of intergovernmental agreements. For 12 years of participation in the project, our country spent UAH 4 billion, which were directed, among other things, to servicing loans attracted under state guarantees. Sum of loans amounted to 260 million dollars. As a result, Brazil officially abandoned the Ukrainian missile, and criminal cases were opened in Ukraine on the fact of using budget funds. The collapse of the project was then explained by the intrigues of Moscow, but, apparently, the reasons were much deeper.

As for cooperation with the Russian Federation, it has practically ceased due to the war, as a result of which such projects as Zenit (launch from Baikonur and Odyssey offshore platform - Sea Launch) and Dnepr (commercial re-launching of SS-18 ballistic missiles).

Let’s look closer at the Sea Launch. It was a truly unique project, the only one of its kind that was supposed to launch rockets from a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean. As a result of a rather dark story with bankruptcy, the project was in the hands of Russians, and at the moment they plan to use Ukrainian missiles in the future. To circumvent the sanctions, Ukraine will be able to supply missiles separately from Russians to the United States, where Russian engines will be assembled to them, and from there the finished missile will be delivered to the offshore platform. The same plan to be implemented regarding the launches from Baikonur: the delivery of engines and rockets from two countries separately and assembly at an enterprise in Kazakhstan. Obviously, there are not many prospects for such cooperation, when the "partners" do not communicate with each other. Nevertheless, the fact that our country missed the opportunity to redeem the bankrupt Sea Launch (and for this, it only needed a few hundred million dollars), suggests that the space industry in Ukraine has always been perceived as a cash cow, but it has never been regarded as a prospective industry, strategic development. It was only about developing the old scientific and technical potential practically "to the end". Now our space and aviation are still relying on the "last of the Mohicans", many of which no longer stand morally and physically and leave either for rest or for other countries - the same Azerbaijan, China, Saudi Arabia.

In 2014-2017 years Ukraine carried out 20 launches of launch vehicles, and this is exactly as many as in  period 2010-2013, although much less than from 2005 to 2010 (32 starts). Nevertheless, the industry continues to work, albeit with significant differences: in past years, most of the launches have been associated with purely Ukrainian rocket brands (Zenit, Dnepr, and Cyclone).

In 2017, the Ukrainian rocket (Zenith) had only one launch out of five. Three launches are connected with the Vega project and one with Antares. The Vega project is the offspring of the European Space Agency. Ukraine makes the march engine of the fourth stage for the rocket. As for Antares, it is developed by the corporation Orbital Science Corporation (USA), and our country participates in the construction of the first stage construction. That is, in these projects Ukrainian rocket builders act as contractors. One of many contractors. In fact, it is a program of smooth depreciation of the Ukrainian space complex by Western partners. In the conditions of sanctions against the Russian Federation, our space enterprises need to provide some alternatives, because otherwise domestic specialists and technologies may find themselves in the most unpredictable countries. With Western contracts, the industry will "die" naturally.

That complex, which we have still preserved, can only be pulled by Ukrainian planes and Ukrainian missiles that can take off from anywhere, at least from Australia.

If we take aircraft construction, the launch of a national low-coster, focused on the leasing of domestic medium-range aircraft, could be the beginning of the revival of Ukrainian aircraft construction. As for the space industry, the commercial launch market is now extremely competitive. As demonstrated by Ilon Mask, private rocket builders are more effective than state ones, and they do not need to look for millions to conduct a feasibility study. It is the private sector and the defense order that are the two levers that can give impetus to the further development of rocketry in Ukraine. In the first case, it is necessary to create effective mechanisms for private-state partnership, in the second - to learn to say "no" to Western curators who forbid Ukraine to develop medium-range combat missiles. As Volodymyr Gorbulin - the mind, honor and conscience of our rocket construction recently said, "Ukraine has the moral right to set before the Western allies the question of revising the current range limitations for medium-range strategic missiles in the interests of its own defense capability."

But this will not happen earlier than the formation of a real caste of service managers in our country, who will, first of all, think about efficiency and not the perfection of their decisions. Today, the same Gorbulin can be considered such a specialist.

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