Monday, November 06, 2017

The Ukraine State Space Agency & Aerospace Industry Needs All the Help It Can Get

          By Chuck Black

The signing of a "comprehensive" memo of understanding (MOU) for co-operation in space between the Ukrainian and Canadian governments at the Canadian-Ukrainian aerospace forum in Montreal, PQ last week, is only the latest twist in a longer story of the Ukrainian economy attempting to find new customers and suppliers to replace those lost as a result of the 2013 Ukrainian crisis.

Ukrainian based and government owned Yuzhmash is the prime manufacturer for most Ukrainian designed and built rockets, including the Cyclone-4M rocket designed by the Ukrainian based Yuzhnoye Design Office which is currently being pitched by Nova Scotia based Maritime Launch Services (MLS) for use in their proposed Canso, Nova Scotia.launch facility, and has certainly seen better days. As outlined in the March 3rd, 2015 Space Pod post, "Is the Ukrainian Space Industry on the Verge of Collapse?," the cause was the 2013 Ukrainian crisis, an unofficial war between the Ukraine and Russia, which began on November 21st, 2013 when then-Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych suspended preparations for the implementation of an association agreement with the European Union (EU). The crisis escalated as Russian annexed the Ukrainian governed Autonomous Republic of Crimea after the controversial 2014 Crimean status referendum, and the two governments have been going at it ever since. As outlined in the video, the Ukraine relied on Russian parts for the their Zenit (operated through Sea Launch), Sea Launch (purchased in October 2016 by Russian based S7 Group, the owner of S7 Airlines), Land Launch (a service project of the Sea Launch program), Rokot (currently operational as a Russian launch system) and Dniper (still operational) rockets. Yuzhomash was also involved with the orbital ATK Antares launcher, the Brazil Cyclone 4 rocket program (cancelled by the Brazilian government as outlined in the April 16th, 2015 Space News post, "Brazil Pulling Out of Ukrainian Launcher Project" but used as the basis for the MLS Canadian proposal) and the forth stage of the European Space Agency (ESA) Vega rocket. For a more recent view of the Ukrainian space industry, it's also worth taking a look at the  June 7th, 2016 Space News post, "How Crimea fractured Ukraine’s space program" and the August 18th, 2017 Reuters post, "Ukraine plant sucked into North Korea missile row has fallen on hard times." Screen shots c/o Space Pod.

But it's also a reminder that the Ukrainian aerospace and space industry needs Canada far more than Canada needs the Ukrainians.

First of all, the Ukrainian delegation, as represented by Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and State Space Agency of Ukraine (SSAU) chairman Pavlo Degtiarenko suggested a certain overkill among the Ukrainian delegation to come to some kind of agreement, at least when compared to the far more junior Canadian government delegation, as represented by Canadian ambassador to the Ukraine Roman Waschuck and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) president Sylvain Laporte.

As outlined in the November 4th, 2017 SpaceQ post, "Canada and Ukraine Sign Space Agreement to Cooperate on Space Activities," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was not in attendance to serve as a counterweight to the Ukrainian PM or to provide a baseline for the level of co-operation the two countries will likely engage in.

And the Ukrainian/ Canadian agreement didn't attract a lot of media coverage in Canada, except for the SpaceQ post. For its part, the Canadian delegation was well served to focus on the agreements mechanism for future interactions while downplaying any specifics which they might or might not have had the authority to approve.  

However, the Ukrainian government issued a series of press released promoting the partnership through Ukrinform, the national state information and news agency of the Ukraine. The November 2nd, 2017 Ukrinform press release, "Ukraine, Canada to explore space," even quoted Grovsman as stating that, "we are a space state possessing technologies and everything necessary for the implementation of successful projects in this area, and we want to act as reliable partners. I am deeply convinced that in our cooperation we will achieve joint success."

But the November 6th, 2017 Ukrinform press release, "Canada should be involved in production of Ukrainian aircraft – ambassador," quoted Ukrainian ambassador to Canada Andriy Shevchenko as stating that the Ukrainian based state owned Antonov State Company, which is currently building An-132 aircraft in the Ukraine using Pratt & Whitney Canada built PW150 turboprop engines, will be the most likely to benefit from any agreements made between Canada and the Ukraine.

MLS management team as of November 6th, 2017. Graphic c/o MLS.
Perhaps not surprisingly given the strong push for space cooperation from the Ukrainian team, Maritime Launch Services (MLS) CEO Steve Matier was invited to attend the Canadian-Ukrainian aerospace forum in Montreal, "by way of an invitation from the Ukrainian delegation," according to the SpaceQ post.

MLS has been lobbying multiple levels of government to build a spaceport in Nova Scotia to launch payloads to orbit using a Ukrainian built Cyclone 4M launch vehicle.

As outlined in the September 8th, 2017 post, "CATA Rage, Liberal Strategy, Space Advisory Board Tactics & Yuzhnoye Can't Manufacture Some Cyclone 4M Parts," MLS rocket supplier Yuzhnoye has been having a difficult time sourcing and reproducing Russian built parts for their rockets, although more recent reports (such as the November 3rd, 2017 More Space News post, "Ukraine resumes testing of the RD-861K engine") indicate that testing continues on the Cyclone 4M

It's also worth noting that the newest member of the MLS executive team, current Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) director & acting chair of the board Yaroslav “Yarko” Pustovyi was once selected by Ukraine to be a member its first astronaut group.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. As outlined in the November 2nd, 2017, "Media Refused Entrance to Thursday's CSCA Meeting at Denton's Law Firm," the CSCA has indicated that it will not look kindly on bad publicity generated through this blog.

And while there is certainly nothing wrong with working out a deal between the Canadian and Ukrainian space and aerospace industries to encourage cooperation, the implied suggestion that the devastated Ukrainian aerospace industry will serve as a panacea for it's struggling Canadian equivalent is currently not supported by any available evidence.

The Ukrainians need Canada far more than Canada needs the Ukraine. 
    Chuck Black.

    Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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