The State Space Agency of Ukraine in early 2021 presented the strategy for the national targeted scientific and technical space program for 2021-2025. The document envisages full-scale cooperation with the private sector of the economy. According to Head of the State Space Agency of Ukraine Volodymyr Taftay, the new program is much more practical and effective than all the previous ones. He is convinced that as part of its implementation it will be possible to expand international cooperation.
Taftay emphasized that the State Space Agency, like the whole of Ukraine, focuses on Europe in its activities. According to him, the state space sector has been provided with all the necessary resources to become a full member of the European Space Agency. Taftay said his goal was to make the Ukrainian space industry more practical.
Taftay spoke in an interview with Ukrinform about the current state of the Ukrainian space industry and prospects for its development in the future.
WE ARE MOVING AWAY FROM IDEOLOGY OF LONG-TERM CONSTRUCTION
Question: You have recently taken up the post of the head of the State Space Agency. What are your plans and what is a strategy for the development of the Ukrainian space industry?
Answer: My main motto is practicality. In my opinion, the latest space programs have not had a sufficiently practical approach to the use of budget funds and the implementation of measures in the space sector. So, first, my strategy is aimed at the rational and practical use of resources available to the state. Secondly, I plan to promote the development and introduction of new technologies.
In 2019, amendments were made to the law "On space activities" according to which private companies are allowed to operate in the space sphere. Before 2020, when the law came into force, private enterprises did not have such an opportunity. I believe that this is a very significant contribution to the development of the country's space sector, because the involvement of private companies provides an opportunity to increase competitiveness in the market and improve the result.
Question: What is the main difference between the new space program for 2021-2025 and the previous ones?
Answer: The main difference of the new space program for 2021-2025 is the lack of specific executors of the measures provided by the program. Let's remember the space program for 2013-2017. It envisaged financing for the creation of the spacecraft Sich-2M and there was a specific executor – Pivdenne (Yuzhnoye) Design Office.
The new program only sets out the essence of the issue, problem, or need. For example, you need to create a satellite with specific characteristics, and a certain amount of funds is envisaged for its creation. Various companies offer us projects to perform this task, deadlines and cost indicators.
In addition, we are very focused on projects that are part of this program. We are moving away from the ideology of so-called long-term construction, which is planned for 10-20 years. Only the tasks of the new program are being carried out. Then, based on the results of the activity, we can say what economic effect the program has brought to the country. Any activity that involves spending from the state budget must be clearly supported by results.
Question: Who will choose the best offer from private companies?
Answer: A council will be established with the participation of all departments interested in the development of Ukrainian space activities. In particular, they include the State Space Agency, the Ministry for Strategic Industries of Ukraine, defense agencies, and many others. This is done in order to have the most objective results of the competition.
SICH-2-30 WILL BE LAUNCHED IN DECEMBER 2021
Question: You mentioned the Sich spacecraft. At what stage of creation is it?
Answer: The spacecraft Sich-2-30 has been assembled and is undergoing trials. It will be ready for launch from the SpaceX launch pad in December 2021.
Question: Previously, the satellite was called "Sich-2-1." Why was it renamed "Sich-2-30"?
Answer: "Sich-2-1" was renamed "Sich-2-30" because this year we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ukraine's independence. Since we plan to launch it this year, we have decided to rename it.
Question: Does the creation and launch of the Sich-2-30 satellite play any role in establishing international cooperation?
Answer: Of course, the creation and launch of the satellite play a significant role in establishing international cooperation because this is the first Ukrainian satellite to be launched in the last ten years. This is a great victory. In addition, it should be noted that for Ukraine's integration into the European Space Agency, it is necessary to develop joint projects and programs with European partners. The Sich-2-30 satellite will be part of one such program and a very important step towards accession to the ESA - Copernicus.
Question: Can you predict when Ukraine will become a full member of the European Space Agency?
Answer: The State Space Agency and the European Space Agency are currently working on a roadmap to address this issue. Thus, we will get a concrete action plan, and I think that in the near future - in two or three years - we will have an opportunity to join the European Space Agency.
TERMINATION OF CONTRACTS WITH RUSSIA ALLOWED UKRAINE TO ESTABLISH COOPERATION WITH OTHER FOREIGN PARTNERS
Question: Which foreign partners does the State Space Agency focus on the most?
Answer: We are open to cooperation with all foreign partners. We consider all our partners very important and open to cooperation. I would not like to choose higher priority or lower priority.
Ukraine's main priority is development towards the European Union. Accordingly, the State Space Agency of Ukraine focuses on integration into the European Space Agency. At the same time, we actively cooperate with the United States, the Middle East, Asia, and Canada. In particular, we are working with Canada to create a Cyclone-4M rocket.
Question: What is the current state of space activities in Ukraine?
Answer: Space activities in Ukraine are now in a difficult situation, because domestic space companies have lost many customers over the past five to seven years. The Russian Federation was also among large customers. Ukraine has lost a lot from the termination of contracts with Russia, but at the same time, it gives us an opportunity to establish cooperation with other foreign partners.
WE WILL SOON HEAR THE NAMES OF UKRAINIAN SPACE HEROES
Question: What do you make of Elon Musk's initiatives in space, in particular, his idea of colonizing Mars? Is Ukraine ready for such experiments? Maybe you thought about working with Musk?
Answer: I am convinced that we will soon hear the names of Ukrainian space heroes. They already are. For example, Maksym Polyakov can be called a Ukrainian Elon Musk. As for cooperation with Musk, I can say that yes - we are planning to offer him to work on the development of joint projects.
SPACE TOURISM WILL SOON BE AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE
Question: Do you plan to fly into space yourself?
Answer: Frankly, two or three years ago I felt fear, but it seems to me that it will soon be a completely safe process, so I would like to fly. Now human flight into space is not something unusual. In general, I believe that space tourism will be common in five to ten years.
Question: Were you present at the rocket launch?
Answer: I participated in the preparation of carrier rockets. In addition, I worked for five years on the Sea Launch project, where I went through all the stages of preparation of the carrier rocket for launch, and then I watched how it was launched.
THE UKRAINIAN SPACE INDUSTRY IS MOSTLY EXPORT-ORIENTED
Question: How did the pandemic affect the development of space activities in Ukraine?
Answer: The pandemic has negatively affected the performance of the Ukrainian space industry, because the industry is mostly export-oriented. This is one of the most export-oriented sectors of the domestic economy. Exports are about nine times higher than imports. In 2020, the borders were closed, and the business went online. The process of adaptation has dragged on and thus slowed the pace of international cooperation.
We do not stand still, but try to adapt to new realities. We transfer all processes to the online format so as to survive the process of COVID-19-related restrictions with the least loss.
UKRAINE HAS GREAT POTENTIAL IN DEVELOPMENT OF OUTER SPACE
Question: What are the prospects for the development of the Ukrainian space sector in the future?
Answer: Ukraine has great potential. We have leading specialists, technologies, a well-established system of space education of the government, the concerned ministry. In addition, President Volodymyr Zelensky is very interested in the development of the space industry. He actively takes care of this area and fully supports the activities of the agency. These are the achievements that we must use to develop space activities. Technologies are developing very dynamically and quickly, so in the context of prospects, we focus on private companies, because they are more "flexible" in the development of rapid projects.
In the near future, Ukraine will take part in NASA's Artemis program to explore the Moon. We have recently signed a memorandum of cooperation. In addition, we plan to participate in Mars exploration programs.
Anhelina Strashkulych, Kyiv
Photo credit: Yuliia Ovsiannikova