Cradle of Sovier nuclear shield: How Yuzhnoye Design Bureau survives today

Author : Olena Holubeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

The past of the legendary Yuzhnoye State Design Office, the main business card of Ukraine in the space arena, is more glorious than its present. There are several reasons for this. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, orders for strategic missiles, which were the main specialization of the Bureau, ceased. Another is the strictest secrecy regime, due to which the company cannot divulge the details of most of its projects, especially in the defense sector
13:10, 26 March 2021

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Nuclear shield of the Soviet Union

Before the business trip, I, like most Ukrainians, believed that the Yuzhnoye State Design Office was the only enterprise in the space industry that survived from Soviet times in Ukraine. Now I understand that this statement is only half true. Yuzhnoye State Design Office is a special enterprise in the military-industrial sector with unique developments and knowledge in the production of weapons of mass destruction. And only due to circumstances (as a result of an unexpected turn in history) he had to rebuild on a peaceful track and look for his application in the field of civil space.

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Yuzhnoye State Design Office was originally an enterprise focused on the defense complex, and they did not produce any other products during the Soviet era. Even the satellites that were produced by the Yuzhnoye State Design Office were used for military purposes, primarily for military intelligence. For example, the Zenit launch vehicle "It was developed, among other things, for the launch of the Celina military satellites," confirms Andriy Kolesnikov, an independent expert in the field of space.

As a reminder of this - the factory prototype of Yuzhnoe's first development, the R-12 ballistic missile, is located near the entrance to the administrative building.

The statement of the famous aircraft designer was associated with a conflict situation that marked the beginning of the Yuzhnoye State Design Office. In 1951, in the midst of an acute confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States, by decision of the government, the DAZ automobile plant under construction in Dnepropetrovsk was transferred to the management of the Ministry of Armaments. Initially, the plant was supposed to produce cars, truck cranes, and amphibians. But the production of these products ceases and the serial production of the first combat missiles of the chief designer Serhiy Korolev begins. According to the decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, by 1954 the plant was supposed to increase the production of R-1 missiles up to 2,500 pieces annually. This is also where Yuzhmash originates.

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On the square in front of the administrative building, a transport and launch container is installed for the last and most terrible missile created by mankind - according to NATO classification, SS-18 Satan - "Satan". Missiles of this type are the most powerful of all ICBMs. Missile defense systems for "Satan" still do not exist. She could start even in the face of a nuclear strike. The name of the missile was given in the United States when they learned about its characteristics. The maximum range of the missile is 16 thousand km. It can spray up to 40 warheads, some of which may be false, and some may carry a nuclear charge. The total capacity of Satan's nuclear charge is up to 8 megatons. Eight of these missiles could destroy up to 90% of the US economy.

Yuzhnoye State Design Office created mobile launch technology: the launch of a missile equipped with a nuclear charge from a platform located in an ordinary train, hidden in the flow of freight and passenger trains.

But it is quite obvious that the further fate, financial position, and vector of development of the Yuzhnoye State Design Office will depend not so much on the personalities of the general director or chief designer, but on state policy and the approaches of the authorities to the development of this enterprise, the defense complex, and the space sector.

Related: Yuzhmash denies NYT allegations on delivering equipment to North Korea

Bank loans for paying salaries

Rumors about the deterioration of the financial situation of the Yuzhnoye State Design Office did not arise anywhere. They do not hide the real state of affairs at the enterprise.

the refusal of foreign partners to cooperate in the Vega and Antares projects will deal a crushing blow not only to the Yuzhnoye State Design Office but also to its general contractor in performing these works – Yuzhmash.

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The Yuzhnoye State Design Office would have been able to significantly increase profits in the Antares project if the Americans agreed to replace the Russian engine at the first stage of the rocket with a Ukrainian one. Since 2017, by order of the Northrop Grumman Corporation (USA), the first stage "Antares", developed by the Yuzhnoye State Design Office, has been manufactured by Yuzhmash in cooperation with Ukrainian contractors "Khartron-ARKOS", "Kyivprylad", "Khartron-YUKOM", "CHEZARA", "RAPID" and already at the Wallops cosmodrome are equipped with an RD-181 engine manufactured by the Russian NPO Energomash.

Initially, the Antares stage used an engine supplied by Aerojet. But the fifth missile launch became an emergency, and, as the investigation showed, the reason lay in the first stage engine. The Americans began to look for a replacement. When the fate of this project was being decided, the Yuzhnoye State Design Office did not have a product offer with the same degree of readiness as NPO Energomash. We offered our services. But our offer was not supported by the Americans.

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The intentions of the American company to find a replacement for the Russian engine in the Antares stage for political reasons, but they have not yet developed into concrete steps.

If it was possible to agree on replacing the Russian engine with a Ukrainian one at the Antares stages, this would give an additional $ 10-15 million in proceeds from the manufacture of each engine. “The engines are very expensive. For example, the Russian engine, which was used for the Zenit launch vehicle (put on the first stage), cost more than $ 10 million each. We can safely say that one engine of this class used in the Antares stage, may cost $ 15 million in assembly. This is a very expensive thing

The company has high hopes for the project being implemented with the Canadian company Maritime Launch Services Ltd. (MLS). The company is building a spaceport in Nova Scotia, and the Yuzhnoye State Design Office is designing a two-stage Cyclone-4M launch vehicle that will be able to launch payloads into low Earth orbits. As Degtyarev clarified in an interview with, construction work will begin this year and will end in three to four years, when the demand for launch vehicles that bring payload to low orbits reaches its climax. And here it is important not to be late.

The Yuzhnoye State Design Office is focused on 6-8 commercial launches per year, but the technical capabilities of the cosmodrome will allow up to 12 launches. Again, as Degtyarev specified, the launch vehicle being developed by the enterprise requires the least capital investment. “When developing it, we rely on a significant backlog of technical solutions for the Zenit and Antares projects. Thus, we have a very high technical readiness with this rocket - all technical solutions have been tested, worked out," the chief designer and head of the design bureau for system design of missiles and missile systems told

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Serial production of missiles will be launched at the facilities of Yuzhmash.

In accordance with the policy of the Canadian company Maritime Launch Services Ltd. (MLS), the developer must himself invest in the creation of the launch vehicle ("Cyclone-4M") and then they will buy it at the market price. The profits (from commercial launches) will be shared between the developer and the manufacturer. That is, the foreign customer does not make any investments, so Yuzhnoye is implementing the project using its own circulating assets.

Related: Chinese CHEC completes dredging in Yuzhny port ahead of schedule

When creating "Cyclone-4M" Yuzhnoye State Design Office faced a serious challenge in terms of the need to find analogues of materials that were previously supplied from Russia. "Ukraine does not have the AMG 6 alloy, which is used for hulls of launch vehicles and was traditionally bought in Russia. We do not have heat-resistant materials (steels) that were used in engine combustion chambers and were also purchased in Russia. Certain composites required in structures are also were purchased in Russia. In particular, it is polytetrafluoroethylene (fluoroplast 4). This material is widely known as Teflon, which is used to make pans. Titanium alloys can also be attributed to this category.

According to him, the Yuzhnoye State Design Office was forced to look for analogs of materials for the combustion chambers of the engine. They were also previously bought from the Russian Federation.

We concluded that the Yuzhnoye State Design Office copes with this task from the words of Kushnarev, who assured that at the expense of the funds received from the implementation of foreign contracts and saved, Yuzhmash manufactured the RD 815 gas generator. It remains only to carry out tests.

Why does Ukraine need a satellite in orbit?

I had to beg Serhiy Poluyan about the opportunity to visit the workshop in which work is being completed on preparing the Sich-2-1 satellite for the launch announced by President Volodymyr Zelensky, timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Ukraine's Independence, and at least take a look at the most popular one in Ukraine today. spacecraft. By the way, after this statement, journalists call the satellite only "Sich-2-30", although this is still not its official name.

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According to Poluyan, the assembly of the Sich-2-1 is actually completed. It remains only to conduct radio technical tests - to check the compatibility of the satellite with the control center in Dunaevtsy. In the room with the eighth level of cleanliness with "Sich-2-1" there is an understaffed satellite "Mikrosat-Ionosat". The plate, which is located next to its dimensional and dynamic model in the workshop, indicates that this 175-kilogram spacecraft is being developed within the framework of the National Space Program of Ukraine and is intended for multi-zone observation of dynamic processes in the Earth's ionosphere. This is a joint development of the Yuzhnoye State Design Office and the Academy of Sciences. There is a hypothesis that a constellation of three such satellites can predict earthquakes with an accuracy of 90% a day before they start.

The Sich-2-1 and Mikrosat-Ionosat satellites were supposed to enter their orbits at the same time. Their launch was planned from the Brazilian cosmodrome Alcantara by the Ukrainian Cyclone-4 launch vehicle. In April 2015, Brazil unilaterally terminated cooperation with Ukraine in the framework of the Cyclone-4 project, as noted in a press release, due to a combination of reasons related to financing issues, technological aspects, relations between Brazil and Ukraine, and also uncertainty in the export prospects of the project.

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In addition, the Space Agency stopped the program, which provided funding for both vehicles. Yuzhnoye State Design Office tried to complete work on "Mikrosat-Ionosat" for its own circulating funds, but the problem was deeper - the Academy of Sciences, a partner in this program, also remained without funding.

Related: Yuzhmash to supply 20 engines under ESA Vega program by 2020

The situation with the Sich-2-1 satellite was also difficult, but it was going on the platform of its predecessor, Sich-2. The equipment was updated and Russian components were replaced. Sich-2 is the last Ukrainian satellite for Earth remote sensing, communication with which was lost back in December 2012 due to the failure of a Russian-made solar battery.

After the failure of "Sich-2" orders for new devices, Yuzhnoye State Design Office did not receive them. Yuzhmash closed the satellite manufacturing workshop. It was outdated and did not meet modern requirements, which were becoming more and more stringent, especially in terms of the level of cleanliness, says Serhiy Poluyan. In 2014, in connection with the annexation of Crimea, the satellite control center in Yevpatoria was also lost. Only the reserve Center for the reception and processing of special information and control of the navigation field in the city of Dunaevtsy (Khmelnytsky region) has survived.

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Under these conditions, the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau decides to start building its own workshop for assembling spacecraft. The workshop was built from scratch. Judging by the stands with descriptions of satellites projects placed in the workshop, the Yuzhnoye State Design Office is ready to carry out activities on a grand scale, but only if two conditions are met: funding under the Space Program, the preparation of which, according to the officials, is at the final stage, or if a foreign private customer appears... So far there is neither the first nor the second.

The decision to launch "Sich-2-1" appeared due to the persistence of the Yuzhnoye State Design Office, emphasizes Sergei Poluyan: “We began to sound the alarm, and the exhibition of the Yuzhnoye State Design Office in the Verkhovna Rada of the new convocation became a turning point. an off-site meeting of the profile committee was held. At the same time, they knocked on the governor's office to reach the President's Office."

The biggest question now is to find a launch vehicle that will launch Sich-2-1 into orbit. The media periodically reports about negotiations with SpaceX, and it is said that it is even ready to reduce the cost of launching a Ukrainian satellite, which weighs no less than 165 kg, according to information posted on a poster board in the Yuzhnoye State Design Office workshop.

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it would be more logical to launch the satellite on the Firefly Aerospace launch vehicle - the Alpha launch vehicle, which has been developed since 2017, the first launch of which is scheduled for late April 2021 from the American Vandenberg Air Force Base. The fact is that the founder of the company, Max Polyakov, is a native of Ukraine, and a number of components for "Alpha", for example, were ordered by him in our country. If Polyakov agreed and the project was a success, the satellite would be in orbit, albeit not by the momentous date, but perhaps at a lower cost.

Experts point out low resolution as the main disadvantage of the Sich-2-1 satellite. On a plate, in the workshop of the Yuzhnoye State Design Office it is said that the device is designed to obtain digital images from the Earth's surface in the visible range of electromagnetic waves. The on-site resolution of the multi-zone scanning device it is equipped with is 7.8 m.

The first spacecraft DS-2 ("Kosmos-1"), developed at OKB-586 ("Yuzhnoye") and manufactured at plant No. 586, was launched by the Dnepropetrovsk carrier rocket "Kosmos" from the Kapustin Yar test site on March 16, 1962.

Related: Yuzhmash expects to receive $8.2 million from Russia for satellite launch

New workshops

In the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau, guests are usually shown not only the newest satellite workshop but also the composite materials workshop - part of the pilot production, the creation of which began in 2015, as well as the supercomputer, which was put into operation at the end of 2018. In fact, this is a reminder of the contribution of Oleksandr Degtyarev to the enterprise, a sign that the outgoing general director was not only able to preserve Yuzhnoye and protect the enterprise from cutting, but also improve its production base.

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Despite the fact that the composite direction of the Yuzhnoye State Design Office has been restored, time and advantages have already been lost. Now many countries are trying to use composite materials in rocketry. And if earlier they were mainly used for solid-propellant missiles, now tanks made of composite materials are also used for missiles fueled with liquid fuel. One kilogram of the composite can carry more load than one kilogram of iron. Accordingly, launch vehicles and spacecraft made using composite parts can carry a higher payload than their metal alloy counterparts.

“Yuzhnoye State Design Office strives for world standards and the creation of a complete production cycle - from raw materials to a finished product. This is interesting, because a contractor involved in the work is always additional costs. Having its own production facilities allows us to limit the costs of raw materials and labor costs. In addition, we have double quality control," says Angelica Simbirkina, deputy head of the complex of new materials and advanced technologies of Yuzhnoye State Design Office.

The management of Yuzhnoye State Design Office does not announce the names of the customers. Like, a commercial secret. The fact that, most likely, it is not a trade secret, but a lack of large-scale interest in the company's products. This equipment was purchased for specific purposes. The supercomputer was purchased for money from the contract for the creation of the Grom operational-tactical complex, developed for Saudi Arabia. The total value of the contract was $ 200 million.

At the time of purchase, it was not only the most powerful engineering computer in Ukraine, but also in Eastern Europe, Sergei Poluyan notes.

Related: Yuzhnoye Design Office works on spacecraft project

Does Yuzhnoye State Design Office have a future?

Of course, we noticed that during our visit to the plant we were allowed to see only the new workshops and the administrative building of the plant. By the way, it is not an easy task to assess by eye how many areas the plant is not using - it is not an easy task - Yuzhnoye State Design Office shares a perimeter of several kilometers with Yuzhmash, and to understand where whose building is, and where whose workshop is, for a person from the street is an overwhelming task. difficulties.

if two or three years ago 70% of the available space was used, at this moment - less than 50-60%. But it is definitely less than in those years when work was carried out on the Cyclone-4 program (a project in Brazil), on Antares, when development was underway, tests were also carried out.

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We also drew attention to the fact that only about 200 people are employed in the pilot production (composite materials). If we add the employees of the press service and representatives of the management, then in total on working days Thursday-Friday we personally met on the territory of the two largest industrial giants no more than a few dozen people, including security. We will remind that only in the state of the Yuzhnoye State Design Office there are now 4444 people.

It is difficult to predict how events will develop further, but to a large extent it will depend on government policy, experts emphasize. There is practically no hope that the Yuzhnoye State Design Office will be able to find new large contracts abroad. It should be admitted that in the world in which SpaceX rules, find such large contracts as were with the Sea Launch project, or participation in a project like "Antares" will no longer work if Ukraine, as a state, does not become a member of international projects on equal terms.

Whether Ukraine needs space and whether the country is ready to finance it from the state budget, we will soon find out. The space program, which will determine the size and directions of the state order, should be ready in the near future. Since 2018, there has been neither it nor state funding for the space sector in Ukraine.

Related: Ukrainian Yuzhmash to produce 5,000 electric buses worth $850 million for South Korea

Work for the state defense complex could become bread for the Yuzhnoye State Design Office, experts say. By the way, this is the direction that the Yuzhnoye State Design Office is discussing, to put it mildly, reluctantly. Yuzhnoye State Design Office has contracts – one from the end of 2019, the other – from the end of 2020, which we are carrying out with the Ministry of Defense. We are going to finish work on the first one this year, the second, too, but it is possible that the work will take place in 2022.

The Yuzhnoye State Design Office refuses to voice the names of products for the defense industry, but the media write, in particular, about the development of the Typhoon-1 missile designed to arm the Grad, Verba, and Brest multiple launch rocket systems. Also, the Yuzhnoye State Design Office is working on the creation of several operational-tactical complexes.

What will be the consequences of the actions and decisions of the authorities in relation to the enterprise, which is still of great value not only for the development of the space sector, but also for the military-industrial complex of Ukraine, we will soon see and be able to assess. But most importantly, if the steps taken kill Yuzhnoye, this will inevitably lead to the death of Yuzhmash. After all, businesses are linked to each other like Siamese twins. Yuzhnoye is the brain and engineering solutions, Yuzhmash is the basis for their implementation.

If this worst-case scenario is realized, thousands of promising specialists with unique knowledge will be left without work, and Ukraine will lose the only chance to once again declare itself to the world as a space power with scientific and technical developments of the highest level.

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