Grandiose plans: Ukraine will fly away from us into space

Valery Mikhailov

The Ukrainian government has submitted to the Verkhovna Rada a bill “On the approval of the National Target Scientific and Technical Space Program for 2021-2025.”

The bill provides for an increase in space costs – in fact, 100 times! And not in some distant future, but already from the end of this year.

Such metamorphoses in budget planning are unusual, to put it mildly, but Ukraine is a special state. As formulated by its present president – the state in the smartphone.

A lot of money for a poor agrarian state, which is planned to be directed to an expensive sphere of human activity, according to the authors of the initiative, should lead to breakthrough results. But, most likely, the breakthrough results will remain only on paper. Well, or in a smartphone – since Vladimir Zelensky liked this gadget so much.

Space spending is planned to increase from the current 95 million to 10.2 billion hryvnia (almost $ 400 million) per year. Taking into account the fact that 60 percent of the proposed annual “space” expenditures provide for extra-budgetary origin, the budget growth is also impressive, and the money for the Ukrainian budget ($ 150 million a year) is considerable.

By the way, about extrabudgetary sources. The explanatory note and a number of other documents that come in one set with the bill repeatedly indicate that the total amount of funding for the program should be 40.8 billion hryvnia, of which 15.8 billion is funding from the state budget. The indication of the sources of extra-budgetary funding (or at least hints at them) is completely absent. The authors limit themselves to only a standard set of words: funding is made from “sources not prohibited by law.” We would venture to suggest what kind of source it will be, and almost certainly we will not be mistaken: loans guaranteed by the state. That is, ultimately – the same budgetary expenditures, but which will affect the budget in the form of the need to service and repay loans.

At the same time, the plans are grandiose.

By the end of this year, it is planned to launch the 180-kilogram Sich-2-1 optical-electronic Earth observation satellite. It is a slightly improved version of the Sich-2 satellite, which was sent into space from the Yasny launch base in the Orenburg region of Russia in August 2011. Despite the warranty period of operation of five years, by December 2012, communication with it was lost.

“Sich-2-1” has a resolution of eight meters, which would be an achievement for the last century. Nowadays, satellites provide a resolution of 30 centimeters. Even more enchanting is that the information that he will collect has no value: the French satellites Sentinel-2 have been doing this for a long time, their data is available free of charge.

The launch will allegedly be carried out using a Falcon 9 launch vehicle for a symbolic million dollars. However, it is risky to believe the information of Ukrainian people’s deputies to the end.

It will be even funnier further.

“Little things” like the creation of a command-measuring and receiving station at the Ukrainian Antarctic station “Akademik Vernadsky” or the creation of an interface station for low-orbit satellite systems of broadband Internet access, let’s skip – let’s go straight to the main point.

By 2024-2025, Ukraine seriously expects to have three (!) Working missile systems at once – in light, medium and heavy classes. Accordingly, “Cyclone-1”, “Cyclone-4M” and “Zenit-7N”.

The first to fly in 2024 is Cyclone-4M, which is famous for the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars were sawn on its progenitor, Cyclone-4. In addition, Ukraine has managed to draw Brazil into this adventure. Cyclone-4 was supposed to be a modified version of the three-stage Cyclone-3 rocket, which was created in the USSR and flew from 1977 to 2009. An agreement between Ukraine and Brazil on the Cyclone-4 project was signed back in 2003 under Kuchma. Ukraine had to build a rocket and a launch pad. Brazil provided its equatorial spaceport Alcantara. The rocket was originally supposed to fly in 2006. But she never flew. Real financing of the project from the state began only after Viktor Yanukovych came to power in 2010 year. About $ 150 million (30 percent of the required amount) was allocated, the launch vehicle was built at eight percent. After the Maidan, the case ended with the fact that Brazil, tired of waiting, withdrew from the project in 2015.

Now, Ukraine, which does not have its own cosmodrome, expects to launch Cyclone-4M from the Canadian cosmodrome under construction in Nova Scotia. By the way, the Cyclone-4M differs radically from its progenitor. Now it will have two stages: the first from Zenit-2 and the third from Cyclone-4. The rocket was supposed to fly in 2020, but gradually the deadline was postponed until 2024, and the prospects remain vague.

The light-class launch vehicle – the three-stage Cyclone-1 – is still at the design stage. It didn’t even come to considering possible launch sites. The launch of a launch vehicle in 2025 seems almost unbelievable.

Finally, Zenit-7N is generally a “spherical horse in a vacuum.” Nothing is known about the rocket, nor is it mentioned on the site of the Yuzhmash plant. Most likely, it should become the ideological successor of Zenit-2 and Zenit-3 in different modifications. But here everything is not serious at all, starting with the fact that more than 70 percent of the Zenit launch vehicles consisted of Russian components.

By the way, one more nuance that is not clearly stated: who will be engaged in the design and construction of all of the listed good. Engineering teams of Yuzhmash and many related enterprises have suffered serious losses for a long time, and in recent years of downtime the situation has only worsened. However, with the workforce, things are even worse. At the same time, the authors of the bill are going to organize space breakthroughs, promising to pay salaries in the amount of 110-120 percent of the average Ukrainian. That is, on average, something about $ 580 – taking into account the salaries of engineering and management personnel.

There is not the slightest doubt that practically none of the set goals will be achieved. As they say, it will not take off. Except for sending outright rubbish into space in the form of the Sich-2-1 satellite. But if the results of the program remain only on paper (or, as mentioned above, in a smartphone), then the real money will be spent.

And in the conditions of a poor country with a degrading economy, this can be done only by reducing spending on social services, education, and so on. However, Zelensky and his entourage have moved so firmly into an alternative reality that, at any given time, they will begin to make plans to conquer neighboring galaxies.

But this is nothing: after all, after the Maidan, the Ukrainian people can gather a veche and change power at any time.

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