Director, The National Space Agency of
The National Space Agency of Ukraine was created by presidential decree in February 1992 to manage the substantial space infrastructure the country inherited following the breakup of the
the year before. Outside of Russia, there was no bigger contributor to the Soviet space program than Ukraine, home of the flagship Yuzhnoye rocket and satellite design bureau and its sister organization, the Yuzmash production plant.
Today the Ukrainian and Russian space programs remain closely interdependent, a situation that will continue for the next 10-15 years, according to Yuri Alekseev, the space industry veteran who was appointed director general of the Ukrainian space agency in 2005. Russian rockets rely heavily on Ukrainian components and vice versa, he notes.
also is forging cooperative space relationships independent of
, such as with the European Space Agency – the 17-nation organization that the former Soviet republic hopes to join eventually. Ukraine’s domestic space program remains relatively modest, but is poised to grow in the next few years, said Alekseev, who joined Yuzmash in 1972 and rose to the position of director general before being tapped to take the helm of the space agency.
Alekseev’s duties include overseeing
‘s commercial space activities, most notably Sea Launch, the international joint venture that launches telecommunications satellites from an ocean-going platform aboard Zenit 3SL rockets. Yuzhnoye and Yuzmash are partners in Sea Launch as well as in Land Launch, which uses a similar rocket to launch satellites from the BaikonurCosmodrome in
Sea Launch today is one of the three most active players in the commercial launch market. But the company faces some challenges, including cost growth in the raw materials needed for Zenit 3SL production and practical limits on the number of payloads in can launch in a given year.
Alekseev spoke recently with Space News
correspondent Simon Saradzhyan.
What are the principal priorities of the National Space Agency of
As you may know we have a 2008-2012 scientific technical space program, which lists our priorities. The government and the VerkhovnayaRada (Ukrainian national parliament) have jointly worked to ensure financing of this program and it is now being implemented. In fact, the annual financing of space projects has been increased by 4.5 times, which allows us to be confident that we will implement this program. The program calls for development, production and launch of Earth observing satellites and launch vehicles. The program calls for a wider cooperation with the Russian space agency, including conducting scientific experiments on the international space station with use of Ukrainian scientific instruments. The experiments will be conducted by Russian cosmonauts. And, of course, we aim to boost the share of the Sea Launch and Land Launch programs on the launch market. We are also working to increase use of the Long-Distance Space Communications Center in Yevpatoria with both Roskosmos and the European Space Agency.
Long-distance communications and such launch vehicles as Cyclone-4 are our priorities when it comes to development of new projects.
Did your agency play a role in the decision to dismiss the chief executive of Sea Launch?
I don’t think so. We of course were aware what was going on there, but as a state, we didn’t interfere. It is shareholders who make such decisions.
What can you say about the sharply rising costs of Ukrainian launchers, launcher components and fuel, and the effect this has had on Ukrainian prospects in the export markets?
The increase in fuel prices has played a certain role, but the share of fuel in the overall cost is not significant – it is some 5 percent – and therefore our launch vehicles continue to show good results when it comes to sales. There is a robust demand for our launch vehicles, including those used by Sea Launch and Land Launch.
What about the rising costs of raw materials for rocket manufacturing?
We still remain competitive vis-a-vis
launch vehicles. There is a problem with the Indians and Chinese, who sometimes openly dump, which is not pretty. But, overall, in spite of the rising costs, we remain competitive, in part thanks to the quality and reliability of our products.
considering purchasing Boeing’s stake in Sea Launch?
I am not aware of such plans.
What are your expectations of Sea Launch for the near future?
I would say the Sea Launch will carry out some five to seven launches per year.
For how long do you think
will be able to preserve its share of the market with its existing launch vehicles before it will need to introduce new ones?
Look at the Soviet-era R-7 rocket and its modifications. This rocket keeps launching and launching. As long as there is a demand, there will be supply. I also believe the longer a rocket is in use, the more attractive it is to customers as it becomes more reliable and all sorts of costs, such as insurance, decrease. Of course, one should push for development too in such spheres as new engines and new control equipment. But, overall, I believe the existing vehicles will remain attractive for 15 years or more to come.
Can the Ukrainian space agency ever operate independently of the Russian space agency, Roskosmos?
I would estimate we won’t be able to live without each other for the next 10-15 years. Our cooperation remains mutually beneficial. The more Zenits we make, the more components for these rockets we order from
The more Soyuz rockets
makes, the more components it procures from us. Until some new launch vehicles emerge with more of their components made indigenously, this cooperation will remain intensive. It will remain intensive also in such spheres as utilization of Glonass. Jointly with
we are planning to introduce the use of this system in several regions of
What is your reaction to the fact that
has been locked out of the competition to launch a part of
‘s Galileo navigation constellation?
Only two experimental Galileo satellites have been launched so far. And these satellites have been launched by a Soyuz, which does have Ukrainian-made components.
has also joined the Galileo program, but it is yet to be deployed, while Glonass is already out there, functioning as a system. I think we can achieve a lot jointly with
in the utilization of the Glonass system.
What is the status of long-delayed plans by
to bring the Ukrainian Cyclone rocket to the Alcantara launch site in
had, for instance, planned to start launches of Soyuz rockets from
in 2008, while we see that they are still delivering equipment for development of this site. Ours is also a serious international project which has its own problems, some of which are rooted in the domestic affairs of the hosting state. We have recently held a very important meeting with the Brazilian side and we hope as a result of this meeting, they will take necessary decisions to facilitate progress. I hope the first launch will take place in 2010.
What are the prospects for a Ukrainian manned space exploration program?
There are no such prospects, so far.