By Yuri Zaitsev, UPI Outside View Commentator
United Press International (UPI), Moscow, Russia, Sun, Dec 18, 2005
Despite political differences, Russia and Ukraine used to play on the same
“space” field in pre-“Orange Revolution” times. Today the situation is
radically altered and the Ukrainian space industry risks stagnating and
losing its positions as the space component of the national economy.
Russia and Ukraine have always cooperated in the space effort. Ukraine made
and supplied Russia with the Tsiklon and Zenit launch vehicles, Tselina
signals intelligence satellites, and ocean-monitoring spacecraft.
Russia and Ukraine have formed an international company, Kosmotrans, to
promote launches of the converted RS-20 (SS-18 Satan) missile and are
partnered in the international Sea Launch project. An agreement has been
signed to set up the Ground Launch company involving Russia, Ukraine,
Kazakhstan and Sea Launch. Both ventures make use of the Zenit rocket
manufactured in Ukraine.
Plans also existed to jointly develop a Ukrainian research module to be
added to the Russian segment of the International Space Station. The Russian
2006-2015 space program was harmonized in some respects with the program
Ukraine was envisaging for the previous few years to develop communications
and telecommunications and remote sensing of the Earth.
It is no secret that most of these results were due to direct support for
the Ukrainian space industry by former President Leonid Kuchma, and his
personal arrangements with Vladimir Putin, including easier customs terms
for mutual deliveries of space hardware.
However, the new Ukrainian leadership has announced its emphasis on
“European values” not only in politics but also in the economy. The missile
space branch was not spared: it was told to line up with Western companies
and work on joint projects. But the main point here is not what Ukraine
wants to get from Western cooperation, but what it can give.
One of the central problems of the Ukrainian space and rocket industry is
that it lacks some key production components, specifically capacities to
manufacture high-powered propulsion units. Consequently, despite Ukraine’s
desire to cooperate with Western Europe, joint efforts are concentrated on
one program of developing the light-weight Vega European launch vehicle.
The Dnepropetrovsk Yuzhnoye Design Bureau is developing a low-powered
fourth-stage engine, or rather a booster. (The work is being conducted
parallel with the Russian-French Ural program to develop a high-powered
multiple-launch engine — 50 flights — fueled by liquid oxygen and methane.
The engine is the basis for a family of promising European rockets.)
Nor does Ukraine develop any launch complexes. This is one of the reasons
why building the Ukrainian-Brazilian Alcantera-Tsiklon-Space launch center
featuring the new Ukrainian Tsiklon-4 carrier rocket has been suspended,
although it is the most impressive project for Ukrainian rocket builders.
Brazil has practically mothballed its part of the effort, pleading delays in
the construction of the complex by Russia’s KB Transport Engineering.
A full-blooded and self-sufficient space industry (something for which
financial, technological and personnel resources for such a venture. Its
budget is running in the red, to say nothing of the social commitments of
the “Orange Revolution.” The actual sum budgeted for space needs is $10
million, or one-fifth of what the Ukrainian law on space activities
The industry’s standing is a low priority, and hence problems with retooling
and staff recruitment have developed. According to the general director and
general designer of Yuzhnoye, the average wage is $200 and needs doubling
Space operations have lost a lot of the ground they gained earlier. In 2004,
Yuzhnoye won a tender to develop a satellite for Egypt. The terms of the
contract were thrashed out before the “Orange Revolution” and the changes
later made by the Ukrainian leadership in its budget policy.
A campaign against preferences and perks (which were abolished in March
2005) caused the project to become a losing venture. One way or the other,
an option on two additional Egyptian satellites following the launch of the
first went to Russian enterprises.
Even so, Ukraine’s new leadership believes that the country can establish
itself in the launch services market and looks to favorable strategic
prospects with high commercial yields. In recent years Ukraine’s share of
space launches has been 12-13 percent of the world’s total.
But the launch vehicles Tsiklon-2 and Dnepr (a converted Satan) were
produced when Ukraine formed part of the Soviet Union, and the cost of
Russian components for the currently manufactured Zenit (which likewise
Besides, Ukrainian rockets, apart from Sea Launch, lift off from the
Baikonur space center, which is on a long-term lease to Russia. Dnepr
launches, on the other hand, are scheduled in 2006 from Dombarovsky in the
Orenburg region, the missile deployment area of a Strategic Missile Force
unit stationed there. (The first time a Dnepr blasted off from Dombarovsky
was in December 2004.) A point to note: Dnepr launches even from Baikonur
are impossible without direct involvement of Russia’s missile men.
The production of the Tsiklon-3 is today halted because of the unraveling of
cooperation between the two countries, including inside Ukraine itself,
while the fairly large number of manufactured Tsiklon-2s may be utilized for
commercial launches only thanks to the fact that the Russian Makeyev Missile
Center in Miass, the Urals, has developed for it the new ADU-600 third stage
(the first lift-off is planned for 2006).
In 2006, it is planned to launch the first Zenit-M (its two-stage version
Zenit-2M and three-stage version Zenit-3M) under the Ground Launch program.
Three to four blast-offs are planned in the course of a year, with full
return on investment expected in five to six years’ time. Considering its
contribution to the manufacture of the rocket and development of the launch
complex, Russia’s share of profits from the commercial use of the Zenit-M
will be 70 percent, compared with Ukraine’s 30 percent.
Ukrainian rocket builders had every chance of sharing in the manned
spacecraft Kliper project by making its Zenit boosters. In line with that,
Russia was to abandon the development of its own Onega rocket. The
The pre-requisite was Ukraine joining the Common Economic Space. Today
advantages for Russia and Ukraine) is hard to second-guess. Ukraine is
considering all factors to come to a “carefully weighed conclusion” and
Ukrainian launch vehicles may simply be “banished” from Russian space
Incidentally, something similar has already happened to a number of military
programs after Ukraine announced its intention to join NATO. Although the
world’s best intercontinental ballistic missiles were developed in
Dnepropetrovsk, the new Topol-M and Bulava missiles were designed and are
being manufactured in Russia without any help from its Ukrainian colleagues.
There is some logic to that: it is risky to depend on someone else in such a
Yuri Zaitsev is an expert of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Space
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