Ukraine wants to build spaceport in Australia. Is it true?

Author : Oleksiy Kushch

Source : 112 Ukraine

The space industry in Ukraine has always been perceived as a milk-cow, but it has never been regarded as an industry for perspective, strategic development
19:00, 2 April 2018


The space industry in Ukraine has always been perceived as a milk-cow, but it has never been regarded as an industry for perspective, strategic development. It was only about developing the old scientific and technical potential practically "to zero". Now our space and aviation are still stationed on the "last of the Mohicans," many of which are already drained up morally and physically and either go to rest or go to the other countries - Azerbaijan, China, Saudi Arabia.

"And why don’t we try to become William Shakespeare or something? "That’s what, apparently, Ukrainian officials from the space industry thought, offering Australia to build a spaceport in the desert located in the western part of the continent. Of course, the "Kosmozoo" was more exotic, but, they decided not to clash with the Australian Society for the Protection of Space Animals.

It should be noted that at the moment, the “scalps” of several spaceports are already hanging in the corridors of the Ukrainian Space Agency. For example, the Sea Launch project that went bankrupt, the Brazilian spaceport Alcantara, from which the new Ukrainian Cyclone-4 rocket carriers did not take off, and the spaceport in Canada, the construction of which either began or will begin in the near future.

"This proposal is very realistic. “Ukraine could launch [missiles] tomorrow morning if we had a site. We offer our people and our expertise if Australia has land for use,” according to the Australian press, Ukrainian ambassador said this in this distant country. Mykola Kulinich, in one go “lowered” the interlocutors to the level of a tree kangaroo. Like, "we have rockets, you have land, open up the gate."  

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Judging by The West Australian agency, Australians took this proposal very seriously. It is perhaps due to the age-old Anglo-Saxon diligence: “What if they really build it, and we refused?”. Such proposals do not come every day. Or rather, it came for the first time in history. After all, how many years they stayed in the British Commonwealth and such proposal did not come? What to do, the heavy echo of colonialism. And then unexpectedly, the message from a distant country, which many Australians knew only from the win in Eurovision.

It was decided to give for the future project the land on the green continent near the Curtin air base near Derby. The construction of the facility will require an area of 5-7 thousand square kilometers. (Well, it’s so that the aborigines do not accidentally knock down a rocket by a tomahawk). The desert places factor simplifies the procedure of public discussion with local "Dundee" and their crocodiles.  

It has not yet been reported how much will the project itself cost, what is the involvement of each party, where do we seek for the funds. Authors of the idea are modest, you can even say shyly they asked only $500 thousand for project design work. Let's just say, only 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 face some kind of default.

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

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

Related: Ukraine, China renew cooperation in space sphere until 2020

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 spaceport, from which the Ukrainian launch vehicles 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 Oleksandr Turchynov, who declared that the State Space Agency should become a "powerful project institution", is becoming true. That kind of institution where the sparkling water is “for the employees of the institute only ".

Generally speaking, space and aviation are exactly those industries-headliners that have given us 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 demotivation blow. Yes, we still somehow repair the giant airplane "Mriya", which ascended the sky in 1988 and in 1994, the engines and equipment, were temporarily removed from it. But at the present time, we do not sell aircraft anymore, and we earn only by freight transportation and sales of documentation, including intellectual property rights and production rights, as it happened with the construction of an An-132 plant in Saudi Arabia. The best specialists have gone to different cities and towns of the world to sell their ideas.

It has reached the point where in some strategic programs for country development, place of space and aviation industries is already densely occupied by oilseeds and technical agricultural crops. But, on the other hand, it's scary to look at the truth. It is just on populist programs it is possible to say that we are a space country and can produce dozens of aircraft and rockets a year. But the truth is somewhat different. Ukraine already fulfills the existing contracts with great difficulties, 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. However, Elon Musk for some reason does not answer the tweets of our Prime Minister...

Earlier it was reported that Ukraine's state space agency (SSAU) offered Australia to construct a spaceport near the Curtin air base in the Kimberley district. According to The West Australian, the SSAU proposal says the facility could become Asia’s major launch site, servicing commercial launches for Australia’s regional partners such as Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Indonesia. The Ukrainian government first offered Australia such option in 2016.

Related: NASA astronaut posts photo of Ukrainian capital from space

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