Sputnik, or Sich 2-30, renamed for launch this year, is hopelessly outdated. The device is an analog of the American satellite, which was decommissioned back in 1998. The warranty for a number of its components, including those supplied by Russian manufacturers, has expired and needs to be extended. Due to the low resolution of the scanner, the Ukrainian satellite will not be able to see even a passenger car from space, while modern devices are able to "see" even a gun in the hands of a soldier.
At the same time, Sich is the only satellite that has been assembled at the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau up to 85% readiness since 2013.
A hopelessly obsolete satellite
Last week, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, Minister for Strategic Industries of Ukraine Oleh Urusky said that President Zelensky ordered to launch the Sich 2-30 satellite remote sensing device into near-earth orbit by the end of 2021. The launch should be timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Independence.
The information that the satellite is being prepared for the launch was confirmed by the Pivdenne design bureau, which has been assembling the device since 2013.
The low-orbit satellite Sich 2-1, which is planned to be renamed Sich 2-30, is in a high degree of readiness. It is absolutely realistic to bring it to full readiness and launch it into space this year. Negotiations are underway on which the cosmodrome and what carrier the satellite will be launched with, acting Director-General of Pivdenne Oleksandr Kushnariov assured.
According to the State Space Agency, work on the creation of the satellite has been completed by approximately 85%, and on the creation of the ground segment (control center) - by 45%.
To complete the work, 5 million USD are required, and in general, the work and start-up services are estimated at 8 million USD.
It is important to note that the last launch of the Ukrainian Earth remote sensing satellite (can be used for reconnaissance in the interests of the defense complex) was carried out in 2011. Since that time, not a single satellite has been launched. Ukraine has only the PolyITAN project in orbit, created by students and professors of the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute.
"Sich 2-30" is ready to perform all the functionality that is performed by earth remote sensing satellites. The satellite's information can be used in all sectors of the national economy, as well as used for security and defense, Oleksandr Kushnariov told 112ua.tv.
The device would not be as effective in solving the assigned tasks as modern remote sensing satellites, experts say.
"This is an outdated apparatus, with the help of which it will be possible to shoot from space only the area of agricultural crops. It is not effective for reconnaissance and tasks of the defense complex," the head of the board of the New Energy of Ukraine Alliance (founded in 2006 with the purpose of implementing innovative technologies in the energy, space, and defense sectors) Valeriy Borovyk.
Head of the board of the Dnieper space cluster Yevgen Rokitsky also emphasizes that the satellite resolution of 7.8 m, which the Sich 2-30 satellite scanner possesses, is not too high, which reduces the efficiency of using the device.
Today private traders offer the state projects of CubeSats (small satellites) with a resolution of 4.75 m and 1.8 m, Rokitsky told 112ua.tv. Rokitsky stressed that these are real projects, the average implementation period of which is 1.5-2 years.
Sich 2-30 is an analog of the American satellite, which was decommissioned in 1998, Rokitsky said.
Another drawback of the Ukrainian vehicle is its high weight, which directly affects the launch price calculated for the payload of the launch vehicle in dollars per kilogram. Prices from SpaceX, on the rocket of which the Ukrainian authorities would like to launch the Sich into orbit, ranging from 5,000 USDpromotional to 20,000-30,000 USD / kg. Also, our sources report that the weight of the apparatus assembled at the Pivdenne Design Bureau is 187 kg, and with the adapter ring - more than 200 kg.
Kushnariov refused to name the exact weight of "Sich," noting only that he was "up to 200 kg." Cubesats, which are offered to the authorities by private companies as an alternative, weigh 10-12 kg and 20.4 kg, respectively. Moreover, their functionality significantly exceeds the functionality of Sichi 2-30.
Worst of all, the manufacturer's warranty for individual satellite elements has already expired. For some of them, this happened back in 2017. The lack of a guarantee will be a huge obstacle to full insurance of the satellite, including from the case if it, once in orbit, does not turn on.
Although Pivdenne design bureau does not see this as a big problem. "The issue with the guarantee for components and parts is not a key issue. All this can be solved, and we will solve this issue so that our satellite is in orbit for the entire required period," acting head of Pivdenne design bureau Oleksandr Kushnariov assured.
Space industry is on the wane
The situation with the satellite fully reflects the situation in the Ukrainian space industry: despite the declarations and adopted laws, private business is not allowed into the sphere, and the public sector is in decline.
As reported, last year the budget had to allocate 12 million USD to pay off wage arrears at Yuzhmash, an enterprise that was the flagship of the space industry in the past. The main customer of Yuzhmash was Russia, which bought Zenit missiles. The plant was unable to find an alternative to Russian customers, which led to its current deplorable state.
The difficult situation is now at the Pivdenne design bureau, whose general director Oleksandr Dehtyariov died due to complications from Covid-19 in November 2020.
Under Dehtyariov, the enterprise was still afloat. He managed to find funding. The enterprise carried out orders for foreign customers. As you know, Dehtyariov was very supported by ex-president Leonid Kuchma, who worked at this enterprise immediately after graduating from the university for more than ten years.
Kushnariov assesses the situation at the Pivdenne design bureau as difficult but does not associate it with the CEO's departure. He recalls that from the beginning of the year, a three-day working regime has been introduced: part of the team works full-time, the part is idle because the enterprise cannot provide everyone with work.
State-owned enterprises of the sector were looking for orders on their own, mainly abroad. Equally, not everyone succeeded: therefore, almost all enterprises in the space industry were in decline, salary arrears at some of them reached truly cosmic proportions.
Against this background, an incredible personnel leapfrog took place in the field of state space. At the helm of the State Space Agency, three leaders have changed in just over a year.
As in the case of Ukroboronprom state defense concern, where, after a long conflict, Deputy Prime Minister Urusky managed to secure the appointment of a head, who publicly stated that there was no disagreement between him and the influential Deputy Prime Minister, Lev's dismissal was preceded by a conflict.
"During the period when Deputy Prime Minister – Minister of Strategic Industries Oleg Urusky announced the launch of the satellite in 2021, the agency and the Yuzhne design bureau received information that the load on the satellite (Sich 2-30) was the position in which it is proposed to be placed will several times exceed the indicators that are stated in the requirements for the operation of Sich-2-1 (the name is Sich 2-30 before the decision to launch it into space on the anniversary of Independence), which will actually it is out of order," the space agency said in a statement.
Moreover, Deputy Prime Minister Urusky announced not only the readiness of the satellite, which, according to our data, does not correspond to reality, but also that "the current leadership (of the space agency) sabotages any decisions."
The best space achievements are in the past
It is high time for Ukraine to decide on the issue of space, which in its current form is nothing more than a suitcase, which is both hard to carry and a pity to leave.
It's really hard to carry. Every year, hundreds of millions of hryvnias are spent from the budget to maintain the life of a complex of barely living relics of the Soviet era. Only for the maintenance of the Space Agency apparatus, 3,2 million USD is spent annually.
The situation with Pivdenne isn’t better, 5,000 people are currently employed here, while taking into account the objective workload of the enterprise, no more than 1,000 is needed. A similar situation could be observed at Yuzhmash.
Against the background of these expenditures on the Ukrainian spacecraft, the expenditures on the Sich 2-30 satellite look extremely doubtful, the cost of which has long gone beyond all reasonable limits.
It is difficult to disagree with the fact that Ukraine does not have enough potential to compete with the traditional leaders of space and countries that have entered this segment recently, but with real financial capabilities.
In the end, Ukraine is sinking not only in space but also in the production of goods with high added value. Maybe it would be worth focusing on this issue?
We will soon find out which way the Ukrainian government will choose - political PR or rationalism. It will be very indicative in what form the state space program for 2021-2025 will be adopted.
"Unlike the programs that were adopted earlier, the new program will not clearly identify enterprises that must perform certain tasks. Fortunately, we are moving away from the approaches of a planned economy: the program will indicate the priorities and things that Ukraine really needs in the space sector. And the performers can be both private and state, those who will offer the best solution," Evhen Rokitsky told 112ua.tv.
But will this approach continue in the final version? So far, the program has not even reached the final stage and is at the stage of preparation for consideration by the Cabinet of Ministers.