Olga Ozhogina is a freelance space journalist. She contributed this article to Space.com Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights via the press center of Promin Aerospace, a Ukrainian rocket startup.
February 28, the fourth day of Ukraine’s struggle against the Russian invader, Ukraine submitted its application for membership of the European Union (EU) under a special accelerated procedure. The application was accepted and entered the review process.
This does not mean immediate or rapid membership, but the process has been divided by three or four. Other countries have gone through this process over a period of eight to ten years, but Ukraine will be able to join the EU much faster if all the conditions are met.
When Ukraine can join the EU, this achievement will open up prospects for cooperation in all spheres of politics and business at the highest level. This holds enormous potential for the development of the Ukrainian space industry.
As EU members, Ukrainians will have the opportunity to receive grants for space projects. European companies will be able to hire Ukrainian workers without bureaucratic obstacles and vice versa, and organize joint training.
Ukraine has a rich heritage of space infrastructure and technology dating back to Soviet times, but over the past 10 years more than 30 Ukrainian space startups have appeared. However, the average age of Ukrainian space industry luminaries is over 50 years old. Thus, the country is focusing on training new specialists in the space industry.
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Accession of Ukraine to the European Space Agency
Ukraine began its gradual integration into the EU in 2014 when it signed its Association Agreement with the bloc.
The implementation of the terms of the Association Agreement has improved the business conditions of the Ukrainian space industry. Space entrepreneurship has started to move towards the private sector and young startups have appeared on the scene.
The Association Agreement, designed until 2022, was created to expand Ukrainian cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA). Volodymyr Taftay, the head of the Ukrainian Space Agency, is also convinced that Ukraine can join ESA. So last fall, the State Space Agency presented its plans to make Ukraine’s membership a reality.
“We have a roadmap for membership and are working closely with the European Space Agency,” Taftay said.
Ukraine is part of the Accords of Artemis, a NASA-led lunar exploration and development program that is getting a lot of attention from ESA. Ukraine’s participation in the program will allow it to help develop technologies that can be used to create a lunar colony.
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What do Ukrainian space companies bring to the world?
Ukrainian space production plays a crucial role in the global market. Since 1950, when the state manufacturing enterprises Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash were founded, Ukraine has been a major manufacturer of launch vehicles, rocket engines and space equipment.
Yuzhmash produces the first stage for the American Antares rocket and engines for the European Vega rocket. The company will also build the Cyclone-4M launch vehicle which will be operated from a spaceport in Canada.
In August 2021, Yuzhmash sent a dimensional docking model of the Beta rocket first stage to the United States by Firefly Aerospace. In January, Ukraine deployed a satellite called Sich-2-30. Seven more Ukrainian satellites are scheduled to be launched over the next five years, one of which was developed by students at the Ihor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv.
The European Space Agency has also expressed interest in a membraneless electric imager produced by Yuzhnoye. This device will be useful in lunar expeditions.
A number of new private space companies have emerged in Ukraine between 2015 and 2021, including SETS (Space Electric Thruster Systems), Promin AerospaceElliscope, Flight Control Propulsion and Orbit Boy.
Founded in 2016, SETS develops electric rocket propulsion systems and spacecraft subsystems. In 2018, the company received the seal of approval for Horizon 2020. Promin Aerospace is developing an ultralight launch vehicle to launch nano and pico satellites into orbit, while Flight Control Propulsion is developing rocket engines and other high-performance rocket equipment. technology.
These companies are based in Dnipro, the Ukrainian space capital. It has long been an important humanitarian link for refugees fleeing Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine. This has become even more the case since Russia launched its new invasion. Employees of many local space companies help collect aid for the people and the Ukrainian military to help defeat the Russian aggressor.
“Ukrainian space companies are not just continuing their work; they also help the country and the population by fulfilling their civic duty. After our victory, this powerful potential will be fully realized,” said Misha Rudominski, co-founder and CEO of Promin. Aerospace.
He is confident that if Ukraine successfully joins the European Union, companies like Yuzhmash, Yuzhnoye Design Bureau and Ukrainian private space companies will receive orders from ESA.
“We will become full players in the European aerospace market,” Rudominski said. “Ukrainian expertise exceeds that of Europe[s] in areas such as rocket technologies and subsystems. Like space systems, we compete with them at the same level in some areas. In still other areas we are weaker. But that’s typical, because each country in Europe already has its orientation and its specializations.”