Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ukranian Based Yuzhnoye Design Office Eyeing a Canadian Spaceport for its Cyclone-4 Rocket

          By Chuck Black

Ukraine’s Yuzhnoye Design Office, a designer of satellites, rockets and once, even Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), has been authorized by the State Space Agency of Ukraine (SSAU) to establish a launch base for its Cyclone-4 rocket in North America.

Perhaps he'd be taken more seriously with a Ukrainian rocket launcher? Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau talks with Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko during a free-trade agreement signing ceremony in Kyiv in July, 2016. As outlined in the September 11th, 2016 CBC News post, "Canada's credibility problem keeps doors closed during Ukraine talks," Canada is not been taken seriously as an honest broker in Ukraine's current conflict with Russia over the Crimea, although both the current Trudeau and previous Stephen Harper governments were hoping for the opposite. As outlined in the April 4th, 2014 post, "The Crimean Crisis and Canadian Aerospace Activities," the conflict has certainly had consequences for Canada. These include the cancellation of a $279Mln CDN contract with Richmond, BC based Macdonald Dettwiler (MDA) for "ground infrastructure facilities for the Ukrainian communication satellite program" and the failure of a joint venture between Dorval, PQ based Bombardier and the Russian state-owned defense firm ROSTEC to build Q400 turboprop aircraft. More recently, as outlined in the July 13th, 2016 Yahoo News post, "Does Canada's decision to cut off Ukraine from satellite data show a shift in relations?" the Canadian government cut off Ukrainian access to Canadian satellite imagery after initially offering to provide it. Photo c/o Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press.

As outlined in the September 1st, 2016 Yuzhnoye Design Office press release, "Ukrainian Cyclone 4 Launch Operations Will be Established in North America," the search has begun "for business and investment partners to develop the launch infrastructure and conduct sales, marketing, and mission management. On site assessments have already been conducted in Canada and the United States for possible launch complex locations."

According to John Isella, Yuzhnove's North American business representative, the potential Canadian site being assessed is in New Brunswick, although other sites are in the running. "There is also a strong interest from at least one central American nation," he said during a phone interview on September 8th.

According to Isella, the planned facility will provide jobs for "several hundred workers" during the estimated two and a half years allocated for construction, plus almost a hundred permanent, full time employees once it becomes operational.

As well, a North American launching facility is expected to "eliminate the need for US customers to seek waivers  for the use of other launch service providers" such as is required by the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) under the current plethora of US and international arms control regulations such as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

Of course, the specifics of of any such legal waivers are, more than likely, still to be decided (TBD).

Rocket for sale. As outlined in the June 6th, 2016 Space News post, "An untethered Ukraine seeks new orbits for its space industry," the last two years have not been kind to the Ukrainian space industry. According to the article, "Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 meant Ukraine lost access to a major ground station located there. That annexation, and ongoing unrest in eastern Ukraine, has also cut off most business Ukraine’s space industry had with Russia. The conflict also put on hold plans to launch Lybid, a communications satellite for Ukraine built by Canada’s MDA Corp." The article also contained an interview with, Lyubomyr Sabadosh, the chairman of the State Space Agency of Ukraine, who visited Washington, DC in May 2016 in order to represent Ukraine at the first meeting of a new US-Ukraine space cooperation working group intended to assist the Ukraine space industry. Graphic c/o Yuzhnove.

In exchange for the technology and the jobs, Yuzhnove is looking for enough financial "off-sets," in the form of tax credits, cash or some other reasonable trade, to cover the cost of rolling out the rocket and building the facility. According to Isella, "we're looking for approximately $150Mln US (just under $200Mln CDN) in cash or kind, although we're certainly willing to negotiate for an appropriate facility."

Once complete, the facility will target the growing satellite constellation market.

As outlined in the April 16th, 2015 Space News article, "Brazil Pulling Out of Ukrainian Launcher Project," the Cyclone-4 had been planned to launch from a proposed launch pad at the Alcântara Launch Center in Brazil, but that deal collapsed in 2015.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.


  1. Wow, New Brunswick? That's pretty surprising actually. I was expecting the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia or even Newfoundland. I imagine they would launch northeast over the Gulf of St. Lawrence, or maybe due south just southwest of the Nova Scotia coast. Wouldn't overflight of populated areas near New Brunswick be an issue though?

  2. Overflights over populated areas are often a concern.

    Keep in mind that the Yuzhnoye Design Office has essentially offered to locate a rocket launching facility anywhere the costs are covered.

    It's possible that the New Brunswick government simply provided the best offer...

  3. If risk to local population & environmental concern become a major issue. There are many other areas within this great nation of Canada that they can locate to.
    On the other hand I must pose the obvious question: Why are we looking to foreign technology and not developing are own?
    So we are to put up all the finance for construction and off set for trade for Ukraine's benefit, they produce the rocket and we get 100 jobs? Hmm, sounds like a one sided deal.
    Why don't we use Canadian ingenuity to create our own and sell it to the world instead. I could go on, but its some food for thought.

  4. Richard, your question is one which has been often discussed in the Commercial Space blog. The most recent discussion is part of the April 22nd 2016 article, "2009 Canadian Space Agency Report on Indigenous Canadian Launcher said "Yes!" But CSA Didn't Move Forward"

    It's available online at

  5. NASA was going to build a Spaceport on Cape Breton Island a few years ago (see It was on the same latitude as Kazakhstan. The USA changed her mind. I'm pleased that someone else is now interested.


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