|RUSSIA AND UKRAINE:
JOINING FORCES IN SPACE OR GOING THEIR SEPARATE WAYS?
MOSCOW. (Yury Zaitsev for RIA Novosti)
Space cooperation between Russia and Ukraine is one of the key aspects of
the two countries’ bilateral relations. It runs along common scientific
and technological lines and is based on close production links established
back in the Soviet era, when space rockets were first developed and
operated. The scientific, design and production schools of the two
countries, set up in the second half of the last century by many
outstanding names in rocketry and aerospace, are closely interconnected.
Sergei Korolyov and Valentin Glushko were born in Ukraine, but spent
practically all their careers in Russia. On the other hand, Mikhail Yangel
and Vladimir Utkin were born in Russia, but most of their achievements are
associated with Ukrainian design and production organizations. Yangel, a
member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and the founder of Ukrainian
rocket building, came to head OKB-586 (today the Dnepropetrovsk State
Design Bureau Yuzhnoye) when it was formed in 1954 and remained its
unchallenged leader and chief designer for 17 years until his death. Utkin,
a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, succeeded him as chief
designer. Tasked with developing combat missiles, they purposefully took
their teams from one product to another more advanced one: from their
first design, the land-based R-12 missile, to modifications of the still
unsurpassed RS-20 strategic intercontinental missile, better known as the
Satan (SS-18), which was fired from an underground silo.
Combat missiles developed at Yuzhnoye have given rise to launch vehicles
still used to orbit spacecraft, including some as part of international
It is interesting to note that more than 900 plants and enterprises, over
700 of them in Russia, contributed to the development of the Zenit rocket
system, which is undoubtedly Yuzhnoye’s most distinctive achievement.
Its first-stage engine was developed under Glushko’s direction at the
Energomash Research and Production Association in Khimki outside Moscow;
its control system, at the Moscow Research and Production Center of
Automatic Devices and Instrument Making under Nikolai Pilyugin, a member
of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. The engine is still considered the
world’s best in its class. The control system places spacecraft in
preset orbits with pinpoint accuracy. (Glushko once joked that if a stick
were fitted out with his engine and Pilyugin’s control system, it would
reach the Moon). A ground-based launch system developed at the Moscow
Design Bureau of Transport Engineering ensures that the Zenit can be
prepared and launched fully automatically, in the unassisted mode. This
feature, an unassisted launch, is the reason this environmentally clean
vehicle was chosen for one of the largest international space projects at
the turn of the century – Sea Launch.
Another reason why the Zenit makes up the core of the project is that it
is fitted out with an advanced booster (actually, a third stage) developed
at the Korolyov Energia Rocket and Space Corporation. Between March 1999
and now, 22 successful launches have taken place under the Sea Launch
program, including four in 2006. Soon, upgraded Zenits will lift off from
the Baikonur space center as part of a joint Russian-Ukrainian project.
All in all, Ukraine, with the help of its Russian partners, has developed
seven types of launch vehicles (from the Cosmos to the Zenit), which have
orbited over 1,100 spacecraft.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Russian side, in addition to
maintaining its traditional ties with the Ukrainian space industry, also
sought to broaden them. Ukrainian firms remained full-fledged participants
in the preparation and launching of Russian spacecraft, and bore full
responsibility for the parts they installed. The Ukrainian side is
interested in active cooperation no less than Russia. Zenit rockets
manufactured by Yuzhmash have 72% of their components delivered from
Russia. Moreover, Ukraine lacks its own space center, and practically all
rockets and spaceware made in the country must be launched with Russian
Still, a measure of disunity between the two countries’ space industries
could not be avoided. Sudden independence upset years of production
cooperation between the plants, which found themselves on the opposite
sides of the border. Experts believe that the curtailment and freezing of
joint projects is costing the Ukrainian side tens of millions of dollars
annually. There is now little if any demand for products made in Ukraine.
There are also financial problems with government orders. In other words,
the only past source of financing is gone.
It would be wrong, however, to say that the Ukrainian leadership has not
tried to improve things. It drew up and implemented several national space
programs. The optimal sharing of even meager funds has helped most of the
industry survive. This came about thanks to the direct support given to
the Ukrainian space industry by a former Ukrainian president, Leonid
Kuchma, through personal arrangements with Vladimir Putin, including
liberalization of customs rules for countertrade deliveries by space
But bad practices are pervasive, and so are the views supporting them.
Following the Orange revolution, the new Ukrainian leadership promoted
“European values” not only in politics but also in economics. This
fate also befell the space industry, which was told to seek cooperation
with Western companies.
The issue, however, is not what Ukraine wants to get from cooperation with
the Western powers, but what it can give them. And it has nothing to give:
Ukraine, unlike China or India, lacks a full-fledged space industry, and
the emergence of one in the next few years is unrealistic because there
are just no resources for it. Ukraine is in a position to pursue a more or
less credible space effort only in cooperation with Russia. Some progress
has already been reported.
In the summer of 2006, Anatoly Perminov, the head of the Federal Space
Agency (Roskosmos), and Yury Alekseyev, the general director of the
National Space Agency of Ukraine (NKAU), signed an agreement on
Russian-Ukrainian cooperation in the exploration and utilization of space
in 2007-2011. It provides for the modernization of launch facilities,
rendering launch services, conducting fundamental and applied space
research, and much else. Ukraine is a participant in the Russian Koronas-Photon
project, which wants to find links between solar activity and physical and
chemical processes in the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
A number of Ukrainian plants are developing instruments and ground
equipment for Russian astrophysical observatories of the Spektr series.
One of the projects is to upgrade the RT-70 antenna in Evpatoria. Close
cooperation is expected in the early forecasting of earthquakes from
space. The Ukrainian program, “Ionosats,” is intended to study the
ionosphere’s responses to all kinds of seismic effects. In its
philosophy it is close to the Russian Kampas, Vulkan and Arina projects.
Another advantageous area of cooperation is the Chibis automatic
micro-satellite platform and experiments aboard the International Space
Station, or more precisely, on its Russian segment. Serious efforts in
this direction were started back in 1999-2000 and continue to this day. In
recent years Russia has come to play a markedly greater role in the ISS
project and this will affect the extent of Ukrainian participation in the
station’s activities. It is not unlikely that a Ukrainian cosmonaut
researcher will carry out joint experiments on the station. Oleg Fyodorov,
head of space programs at NKAU, said that although Ukraine has no
cosmonaut team of its own, it has young scientists who in the late 1990s
were screened and participated in an American shuttle flight, and are
ready to go aloft again.
Russian-Ukrainian space cooperation could gain a lot from Ukraine joining
the common economic space. The pluses are obvious for both countries and
the move would not infringe on the sovereignty of either Ukraine or
Russia. Nevertheless, so far the Ukrainian leadership is still considering
the question, wanting to make “carefully weighed decisions.”
Yury Zaitsev is an analyst with the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Space