Interview of the Head of the NSAU, Mr. Yuriy Alekseyev

Hello reader!

It follows one communicates published in english on the day (24/12/2010) in the website of the National Space Agency of Ukraine (NSAU) detaching the interview of the Head of the NSAU, Mr. Yuriy Alekseyev for the "Kiev Telegraph".

Duda Falcão

Yuriy Alekseyev: Nowadays the Word
"competitiveness" is passing...

Interview of the Head of the National Space
Agency of Ukraine Mr. Yuriy Alekseyev for the
"Kiev Telegraph" Issue 52 (554), Dec. 24-30, 2010

Interview by
Galina Moiseyeva

Yuri Alekseyev knows everything about rocket and space industry in Ukraine and globally. Or almost everything. He came to the Yuzhmash plant in Dnipropetrovsk as a student of the university. He passed the way from assistant foreman to CEO. Each Ukrainian rocket went through his hands literally. Last few years, the Hero of Ukraine Yuriy Alekseyev leaded the National Space Agency. He believes that the era of cooperation in space has come, and it’s time for space to descend to the ground ...

- What is Ukrainian space industry today and how it is competitive in the world?

- Ukraine inherited a large piece of space industry of the Soviet Union. Since inception of the National Space Agency of Ukraine (NSAU) in 1992 it was given the task to preserve all the capacities that available. We did it. Now, we can say that Ukraine is a Space faring Nation. Our products are known in the world. It has demand. And the industry will undoubtedly have the future.

- We continue to produce Zenit LVs, participate in the program "Dnipro", and there comes a turning point in the project "Cyclone-4", we are working together with the Brazilians. We hope that launches by Sea Launch program will be reborn soon.

- The further cooperation with Russia will be extended. Recently, the Kharkiv Research Institute of Radio Engineering Measurements joined the GLONASS program (Russia's satellite navigation system. – Ed.).

Also this year Americans increased the order in Ukraine in the framework of Taurus-II LV manufacture. First it was about Ukrainian companies to only design and produce the fuel compartment of the first stage. Now, Ukraine is working on a propulsion system for the 2-nd stage.

It is an interesting project because the customer - American corporation "Orbital Sciences”, as is known, won the tender for delivery of cargoes to the ISS after 2010, when flying the space shuttle must be ended.

We tried to coordinate their plans with the tasks of GEOSS international system. The project, whose name is interpreted as "Global Study of the Earth", was developed on the basis of a 10-year Implementation Plan (from 2005 to 2015) involving 75 countries and 51 organizations.

- Ukrainian-Brazilian project is gaining momentum this year. In September, as is known, the construction of ground launch complex at the Alcantara launching center was started, to provide launching of a new generation of the Cyclone-4 LV. So, is the process already under way?

- Yes indeed, active works on the construction of launch facilities in Brazil were started. In September, the first stone was laid at the future site of the launch complex. Several hundred hectares of land have been cleared of forest. The launch pad digging works (8 m below ground level) have been started already. However, currently there was a rainy season, and it disturbed the construction works. Nevertheless we’re just a little behind the schedule, signed in May. Also, a problem remained with financing. Brazil is ahead of us in this regard. Yet in 2010 Ukraine fulfilled its obligations. The rest should be solved.

- When could we expect the first launch of “Cyclone-4 "?

- I believe in 2012.

- You know that there were different opinions on this project. For example, someone argued that Brazil has laid solely its territory to a statutory fund of the joint venture, while Ukraine was building the launching complex and a new LV, and that we could not afford it...

- This project is cooperation between Brazil and Ukraine, and it is beneficiary to both parties. Brazil hasn’t simply laid the territory, but invested its money into infrastructure: roads, port, providing refueling tanks. Ukraine is responsible for developing the launch vehicle, launching complex, control stations etc. That is, we were preparing the ground infrastructure. Costs were both Brazilians and ours - 50 / 50.

It is very important for the development of Ukrainian space industry and national production, that currently hundreds of companies in the country are involved in implementing the project. Orders were placed in Kharkiv (the Khartron SE and RMRI SE); in Mariupol on Azovmash plant, which manufactured tanking systems for the Alcantara Cyclone Space, and transport means, which should deliver LV to a launching pad; in Dnipropetrovsk (at Yuzhmash and Yuzhnoye SDO) etc.

We can not say that Ukraine can’t afford the project. We can afford it indeed. It is just the crisis period isn’t the easiest time to implement such ambitious programs. Nevertheless, to date Ukraine fulfilled its obligations, and this is important.

- Several years in a row there was such an extraordinary issue as protests of Kilambolo Indians who didn’t allow building spaceport within implementation of the Cyclone-4 project ...

- We have identified another location, which is administered by the Ministry of Defense of Brazil. In other words, it is an area of defense ministry, so all the issues regarding kilambolo (local residents) have been resolved already.

- Another topic lifted in connection with the Brazilian project is competition on the global space market. I understand that globally there are a lot of satellites but only units of launch vehicles with an intense competition ...

- It’s somewhat wrong. I would say it’s quite the contrary. At present the supply of launch vehicles is greater than demand for the delivery of satellites. As for competition, then, in my opinion, today the time has come when the word "competition" in space is passing. Current term is cooperation.

Further development of astronautics and rocketry will go into the field of cooperation, unity of efforts. It is because nowadays space is a very expensive thing. Current projects for development of new launch vehicles to fly to the moon, Mars and Venus are unfeasible for even the most developed economies. Human security, long-term residence on the space station - is a very complex task. Let’s take a flight to Mars: one way fly takes more than seven months. No one, even the most powerful economy can afford it.

That’s the reason for everybody to cooperate at present. There are lots of joint programs, which are operated under the auspices of the European Space Agency (ESA), Russian Space Agency, and American NASA. Perhaps China is the single one to go its own way. But it is a strong self-sufficient country that can afford it.

Ukraine tries to be involved in many projects, and if it’s not the launch vehicles, then - scientific ideas, original developments. For example, one recent project was Russian satellite, “Coronas-Photon ", created to explore the sun. There were instruments made by Ukrainian enterprises (in particular, Kharkiv University) for Ukrainian money.

Due to this, our scientists have received information from the Step-F device, which was installed on this machine. We are an equal partner in this project. And our scientists have gained access to all data from this project.

We always work together with potential competitors (e.g. the program "Sea Launch" – USA, Ukraine, Russia and Norway; another program – the Land Launch: Russia and Ukraine). There is a Dnipro program, which joined Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan.

- How is space industry cost-effective in general?

- I can give you some figures. Let’s take the data for 2000-2010. In fact, only 1 billion UAH was spent on development of the industry. This is - 30% of what was planned in space programs. At the same time our enterprises have paid about 3 billion UAH into the national budget. So, the activities of space industry and space companies are very cost-effective.

Another thing is that we are not in demand as much as we would like to be. And here I am in favor to bring space back to the ground. The National Space Agency of Ukraine is working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry for Emergency Situations. We are working with the Ministry of Agrarian Policy on macro-scale assessment of the size of crop areas, yields, the study of farm resources and woodlands.

We have programs with the Ministry for Emergency Situations on prevention of natural disasters. For example, during the summer fires First Vice-Prime Minister Andriy Klyuev assigned us the task of fires monitoring. We have a technique developed by "Dneprokosmos" company from Dnipropetrovsk: based on analysis of the images with high temperatures and the presence of coniferous and deciduous forests, received from the satellites, it’s possible to monitor the islands of fire.

- Which rocketry achievements could be assumed as Ukrainian ones? Say, "Cyclone-3” is the Soviet launch vehicle, but the Cyclone-4 is a “child” of scientific thought of independence period?

- You know, nothing happens from scratch. You cannot say that the Cyclone-4 is a brand new rocket. It is based on the development of "Cyclone" of Soviet times. Of course, many things changed in it since. It has a new control system (it was developed by Khartron plant jointly with the Institute of Radio Engineering Measurements in Kharkiv), engine (for the third stage) and the fairing. Brand new optics was developed on the "Arsenal" plant. In fact, there many "proper Ukrainian accomplishments” but maybe not all of them are visible.

- Do you think that space is still the future of mankind or an unrealized dream, receding into the past already?

- Tsiolkowski said that the land is the cradle of mind. But you can not live forever in a cradle. Of course, space is developing, moving forward. And, of course, it is directed into the future. European Space Agency, China and NASA are talking seriously about plans for lunar exploration, lunar power plants. Russia plans to launch unmanned space station to the moon. USA wants it right away to Mars.

Ukraine is the only country in the world, having the space roots whose budget for space exploration has fallen because of the crisis. In all other countries – Europe, USA, China, Russia and even India financing of space programs has remained the same or was increased. Thanks to Mykola Azarov, the measures were taken to make it all out. Now we can openly admit that we have lost a lot in the last 1.5 years. But thanks to the common understanding with the Government and the President space industry has a good chance to catch up and reach new frontiers in the near future.

Source: Website of the NSAU (National Space Agency of Ukraine)


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