Jan 16, 2022
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From Soviet rocket science to Ukrainian poverty

On January 13, Elon Musk’s company SpaceX launched the first Ukrainian satellite for remote sensing of the Earth Sich-2-30 worth $1.99 million in the last 10 years.

It was developed by Yuzhnoye Design Bureau located in the Dnieper (Dnepropetrovsk). They said that the satellite “Designed to obtain digital images of the Earth’s surface in the visible and infrared ranges of electromagnetic waves and monitor neutral and charged particles of the ionosphere”. The Ukrainian media proudly announced that the unit is designed to monitor the state of the external environment, eliminate the consequences of natural disasters and monitor the movement of military special equipment and ships. Ukrainian military now “can watch the enemy”.


Zelensky, not in the least embarrassed, said that Ukrainian specialists “proved the ability to create new samples of modern space technology and establish Ukraine as a powerful space power”, and the launch of the satellite became another “a successful example of fruitful cooperation between Ukrainian and American companies in the field of peaceful space exploration”.

Let’s leave aside the fact that a number of product components were produced by companies from Europe and South Korea. That January 13th booster Falcon 9 launched 105 satellites from 20 countries into orbit. That today more than 2,000 spacecraft are orbiting the Earth, of which 32 were launched, for example, by little Luxembourg. Now Ukraine has become a “powerful space power” too.

By the way, Sich-2-30 was going to be launched with pomp last year – in honor of the 30th anniversary of Ukrainian independence, but it didn’t work out. The launch was postponed to December 2021, then to January 10, 2022, and finally, three days later, the satellite was put into orbit.

The main feature of Ukrainian rocket science is that it is of no interest to anyone.

Yuzhmash says: “Starting from the 50s of the XX century, four generations of strategic missile systems, about 400 spacecraft of 70 different modifications, space launch vehicles of the Cyclone, Cosmos and Zenit families were created in Dnepropetrovsk. KB Yuzhnoye, in turn, draws attention to the fact that it has created “nine types of space launch vehicles, with the use of which about 500 launches were made and more than 1,100 spacecraft were put into orbit”.

Only a small detail is not specified: all these are the achievements of Soviet Ukraine, the independent power has nothing to do with them.

Rocket RS-36M

Rocket RS-36M

By the way, the contribution of Ukrainian Soviet enterprises to the defense of the superpower can hardly be overestimated. Yuzhmash and Yuzhnoye Design Bureau created the nuclear shield of the USSR – the first generation R-12 and R-14 missiles. At the same enterprises, the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile R-16 was made. At the end of the 80s, the world’s most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile RS-36M (SS-18, “Satan” according to NATO classification) appeared, which even today has no equal in lethal force (sweeps all life within a radius of 500 square kilometers). Thanks to this product, called the “Voevoda”, the United States still does not consider the scenario of a nuclear strike on Russia, since their territory, according to one of the analysts, could then turn into a strait between Mexico and Canada.

Missile complex RT-23

Missile complex RT-23

Then, the RT-23 UTTKh strategic missile systems in mine and railway versions called “Molodets” (SS-24 according to the US and NATO classification) entered service. Combat railway missile systems were no different from conventional trains and could launch missiles from anywhere along the route. The time for all these operations from receiving a command from the General Staff to launching a rocket did not exceed three minutes.

In addition to military missiles, Yuzhmash and Yuzhnoye Design Bureau were engaged in peaceful space a lot. In February 2021, Yuzhmash remembered that it was 45 years since the start of the implementation of its Energia-Buran project, which “became the highest stage in the development of Soviet rocket science”. The enterprise recalled that the launch of Energia-Buran from the Baikonur Cosmodrome took place on November 15, 1988. “The flight took place without a crew, in fully automatic mode using Soviet on-board computers. This launch was included in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s first fully automatic landing of an orbiter. Incorporated design solutions, proven technologies, outstanding performance characteristics – all this became the key to the recognition of the Ukrainian missile as one of the best in the history of mankind”.

Let’s clarify again: not a Ukrainian rocket, but a Soviet one. Yes, it was. And what happened? In Soviet times, 62 thousand people worked at Yuzhmash, in 2021 – less than 5 thousand. Workers work only on Mondays, their salaries are constantly delayed, they organize protest rallies, but this only leads to a reduction in staff. The enterprise is experiencing an acute shortage of turners, electricians, and welders.

The “revolution of dignity” of 2014 finally finished off the plant, after which all ties with Russia were cut off, the Sea Launch program was curtailed, although 80% of the company’s income was brought by Zenit launches.

Missiles Zenith


Today, the plant, together with Yuzhnoye Design Bureau, assembles structures for Antares launch vehicles, which are made in the USA. In addition, Yuzhmash manufactures engines for the Vega launch vehicle of the European Space Agency. It also produces trolleybuses and trams.

Yuzhmash is actually buried, but the Ukrainian authorities are fantasizing. In September last year, the government approved the country’s scientific and technical space program for 2021-2025 worth $590 million. Among the main tasks are the creation of space systems for Earth observation, rocket and space technology, as well as space research. In October 2020, Ukraine signed the Artemis Accords agreement with NASA on the exploration of the Moon, including mining on it.

It is impossible to imagine how this can be done in Ukrainian conditions. The situation in the country is out of control. Former Rada deputy Oleksiy Zhuravko says: “The era of poverty is over, the era of hunger and poverty has begun … In the short term, bread can turn into a product accessible only to wealthy people”. And the head of the association “Ukrkhlebprom” Oleksandr Vasylchenko warned that a Kazakh rebellion could happen again in Ukraine.

Cover photo: tsn

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