Volodymyr Usov, a former chairman of Ukraine’s space agency, once held high hopes for the country’s space industry. However, the shadow of lost partnerships and the effects of war now looms large in Ukraine’s space sector.
Ukraine’s Space Sector Hit Hard by War
On August 1st, the Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, assembled in Ukraine, launched smoothly from Virginia, carrying a cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station.
Yet, this success was tinged with bitterness for Ukrainian engineers. It marked the final flight of the Antares 230 series, which contained Ukrainian and Russian components, and a reminder of how the war with Russia has affected Ukraine’s space sector, a published article reported.
The damage extends beyond Antares. The Yuzhnoye State Design Office and Yuzhmash Machine Building rocket factory in Dnipro, where Antares stages were assembled, have faced repeated attacks by Russian missiles.
Although the extent of the damage remains undisclosed, these once-mighty facilities have shifted focus to military technology production. This change is a departure from their previous output, including 100 launch vehicles annually and vital contributions to European rockets like Vega.
Ukraine’s Space Sector Lost Partnerships
Unfortunately, the collaboration in Ukraine’s space sector is eroding. The Italian firm Avio, responsible for Vega rockets, is considering alternatives to Ukrainian upper-stage technology. The war has introduced an unwelcome level of risk into partnerships with Ukraine, deterring potential collaborators.
Some startups, like Kurs Orbital and Skyrora, continue to operate in Ukraine, but the loss of larger projects is deeply felt. Prominent companies, such as Firefly, have withdrawn from the country. The consequences go beyond job losses; Ukraine’s space experts find themselves isolated once more, reminiscent of the Cold War era.
Volodymyr Usov once aspired to transform Ukraine’s space sector, envisioning a more open and commercially driven industry. As the conflict persists, the future of Ukraine’s space sector remains uncertain. The willingness of Europe and the U.S. to support Ukraine, not just financially but by integrating it into supply chains and trusting its capabilities, will be pivotal.
Ukraine’s once-mighty space sector teeters on the edge, and the openness of the door to the West will determine its fate. In the face of adversity, Ukrainian space professionals like Volodymyr Usov continue to persevere, seeking ways to keep their dreams of a thriving space industry alive despite the challenges that have befallen their nation.