Op-ed | Ukrainian space companies are united in defending the country
The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine has united the space community in our country and worldwide. International space companies are supporting their Ukrainian colleagues, and Ukrainian companies are deploying volunteering directions of work because they have to secure their employees and help the army.
From the first days of the war, world space organizations have stood on our side. To support the Ukrainian Army, captain of the Spacex Inspiration 4 crew Jared Isaacman personally brought aid to the Ukrainian military. Satellite images of the movement of Russian troops were provided by the company Capella, and Ukrainians received Starlink satellite Internet reception stations as a gift from Elon Musk at the request of Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov.
Elon Musk said that SpaceX had reprioritized its work to ensure the cybersecurity of its Starlink stations. Because of this, the company even postponed planned releases of new versions.
As the world watches Ukraine fighting against Russian aggression, Ukrainian companies must ensure the safety of their employees. To do this, most companies have switched to remote work formats and flexible schedules.
Several Ukrainian space companies, including both startups and large companies, have managed to continue operations, combining work responsibilities with volunteering. Some high-tech companies are opening up new fields of operation to support the military and the population. For example, the mobile application Reface has launched a logistics project called KOLO to supply ammunition to the Ukrainian army. Their engineering team is now working on new software to analyze enemy movements in satellite images.
Space companies during the war
Many private and state aerospace companies in Ukraine develop spacecraft, aircraft, and parts. They include SETS (Space Electric Thruster Systems), Kurs Orbital, Flight Control Propulsion, startups Orbit Boy, Promin Aerospace, and Elliscope. The state-owned Pivdenne and Pivdenmash enterprises are developing rocket engines and rockets in collaboration with Northrop Grumman and the European Space Agency.
All of these companies have continued their normal work. At the beginning of the war, some adopted remote working, but they already had experience with this from the pandemic. Most companies have also created volunteering programs.
The former head of Ukraine’s State Space Agency and founder of Kurs Orbital stressed that Ukrainian space companies have great potential that will be fully shown after victory over the invaders.
“No one believed that Ukraine could resist the Russian army crossing our borders, but we are doing it. New space startups have appeared almost every month, and there will be more,” he said.
The engineering team at Promin Aerospace remains in Ukraine and is continuing its work on developing our rocket. Our other team members are working remotely. They have also added responsibilities for territorial defense and volunteering to their daily routine.
“Each of us has had to be flexible for the needs of wartime and to perform new duties to protect our country. Some are strengthening the defense of their cities, some are helping refugees and the armed forces, while others are arranging supplies of medicines, ammunition, and food,” wrote Misha Rudominsky, CEO and co-founder of Promin Aerospace.
Sanctions against Russia
The Russian invasion has sparked serious responses by the international community in the field of space. Several countries have imposed sanctions against the aggressor, making previously planned international projects impossible.
Thus, the withdrawal of OneWeb satellites from the Russian cosmodrome at Baikonur was canceled, the Russian-European Mars mission was suspended, and more than half of high-tech imports were frozen, which will do considerable damage to Russia’s state space program.
Moreover, Russia has also cut itself off from activities that did not fall under sanctions. Roscosmos has refused to export RD-181 rocket engines and cooperate on the ISS. The aggressor’s withdrawal from international projects opens up more opportunities for other space companies.
Volodymyr Kravchuk is head of communications for Promin Aerospace, Kyiv, Ukraine