Ukraine aims to have three Earth imaging spacecraft in orbit by 2018

During his visit to Poland in order to hold a meeting with the President of Polish Space Agency, Chairman of State Space Agency of Ukraine Oleg Uruskyi was interviewed by Ukrinform and answered some topical questions.

Firstly Oleg Uruskyi said about his agency's role to assist Ukrainian armed forces that take part in military operations at country's East. According to him, the assistance includes Earth imaging data provision, as well as development, manufacturing and servicing some types of missile and rocket systems.

He also admitted that space industry, just as other sectors of national economy, has faced toughest crisis since collapse of the Soviet Union. As an example, situation around Yuzhmash plant, manufacturer of Zenit and Cyclone family of launchers, Dnepr rocket and Antares first stage, was described in SpaceDigest article.

After that, Uruskyi detailed Ukrainian satellite constellation plans. Thus, next year Ionosat-Microsat spacecraft launch is scheduled. It will carry aboard various scientific payloads of different countries, in particular, Poland's.

Artist concept of Ukrainian satellite constellation. Credit: Yuzhnoye SDO
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Launch of new-generation Sich-2-1 Earth imaging satellite is scheduled for 2017. The following year Sich-2M, which is expected to have much better resolution, is planned. Moreover, Ukrainian party now is in discussions 'with a Western country' to purchase a sub-meter resolution spacecraft, Sich-3, that could be launched in late 2017.

“Therefore, in 2017-2018 we are ready to form own orbital constellation that will comprises at least 3 Earth imaging satellites.” Oleg Uruskyi, Chairman of State Space Agency of Ukraine

Currently State Space Agency of Ukraine is developing new strategic program until 2022. This is the first such fundamental document for Oleg Uruskyi, appointed to his position in January 2015 to replace Yuri Alekseyev, who had been Chairman of the Ukrainian space authority for almost a decade.

Presumably, this new space strategy will minimize number of programs, implemented by Ukrainian space enterprises, and will focus on Earth imaging and space-based research 'in the interests of other industries'. It is expected that Government of Ukraine will fund space program at the rate of $22-$31 million annually (in present conversion rate), which will allow State Space Agency to launch at least one spacecraft per year.

Furthermore, the space strategy aims to reform national space industry in order to 'corporatize' enterprises and make vertical and horizontal structures. “I suppose we will have a new face of the industry in the near future,” intrigued Uruskyi.

Launch of Orbital ATK's Antares with Ukraine-made first stage. Credit: NASA
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Talking about international cooperation Oleg Uruskyi said Ukraine still hoped for collaboration with Orbital ATK under Antares first stage manufacturing, and for joint with Brazil Cyclone-4 program. He did admitted the program's crisis, resulted by a 'financial difficulties', but announced his soon visit to Brasilia in order to take part in meetings of Board of Directors and General Assembly of Alcantara Cyclone Space bi-national company.

“We will raise all problematic questions. First of all, we want to understand our partners’ position with regards to readiness to continue the [Cyclone-4] program and attract a third party, an investor.” Oleg Uruskyi, Chairman of State Space Agency of Ukraine

It is worth to note that some Brazilian media have already announced Cyclone-4 program cancellation, a situation which SpaceDigest analyzed in a dedicated article. Later SpaceNews published an interview with Petronio Noronha de Souza, deputy chief of the Brazilian Space Agency, who confirmed such rumors.

Oleg Uruskyi also endorsed President Petro Poroshenko, who told about a 'multi-billion space cooperation' with Turkey, agreed during his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Uruskyi said that Ankara confirmed its interest in development of a space rocket complex with the assistance of Ukrainian party. “This is serious and long-duration work… As soon as we sign a contract, we are ready to start to do it,” he added.

All is not lost in cooperation with Russia. Recently Izvestia informed that Ukrainian authorities gave Yuzhmash plant permission to send to Baikonur its specialists that will take part in upcoming missions of Zenit rocket. Launches of Electro-L meteorological satellite and Spektr-RG science observatory are scheduled for July 2015 and 2016, respectively, atop the Ukraine-made launch vehicle.

Zenit-3SLB ready for launch from Baikonur. Credit: Yuzhmash
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“This is civil space, and we are going to continue our cooperation with Russia under civil programs,” told to Izvestia Sergei Voit, General Director of Yuzhmash. Regarding launch of the first Ukrainian telecommunications satellite Lybid, also planned to be conducted aboard Zenit from Baikonur, commitments have not been changed. However, Ukraine still has to pay Russia for Zenit's RD-171 rocket engines and control system near $15 million, which is hardly affordable amount for it in the nearest future.

Returning to Oleg Uruskyi visit to Poland itself, it was reported that he met with the President of Polish Space Agency Marek Banaszkiewicz, and discussed perspective areas of Ukrainian-Polish cooperation in space sector. The agenda of the consultations also included issues on bilateral cooperation in the context of Poland's membership in the European Space Agency (ESA) and cooperation within the EU Horizon 2020 program.

Oleg Uruskyi emphasized collaboration with Poland under Earth remote sensing, both space and ground segments. He expressed hope to jointly make in future a spacecraft in the interests of Ukraine's western neighbor.

Oleg Uruskyi (right) and prof. Marek Banaszkiewicz (left). Credit: SSAU
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Answering the question about possible ESA membership, Uruskyi noted that currently Ukraine expects 5-year associated membership. During this term State Space Agency should offer Prime-minister of Ukraine to join the European Space Agency and then will have to declare its readiness to pay membership fees. “We aim to complete process of gaining the ESA membership status by 2020,” concluded Oleg Uruskyi.

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