On Christmas Day 2021, an European Ariane 5 rocket roared off its launch pad in French Guiana with the most expensive payload the booster had ever carried, the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope. The launcher performed perfectly, sending the most powerful space telescope on a journey to its final destination 1.5 million km (900 million miles) from Earth. The launch was so accurate that Webb should have sufficient propellant to perform science operations for much longer than its planned 10-year lifetime.
There was a collective sigh of relief among the European, American and Canadian scientists and engineers involved in the long-delayed program. It was a superb Christmas gift to a world suffering through the second year of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, November 19th, 2021 (Maritime Launch Services/Nanoracks PR) – Maritime Launch Services, one of Canada’s leading aerospace firms and the owner of the country’s first commercial spaceport, announced that Nanoracks, a Voyager Space company and the leading commercial payload provider to the International Space Station (ISS), will serve as the company’s first client when Spaceport Nova Scotia’s operations go live in 2023. For this first mission, Nanoracks will deploy customer SmallSats and host spacecraft technology demonstrations.
DNIPRO, Ukraine (State Space Agency of Ukraine PR) — The State Enterprise Production Association Southern Machine-Building Plant OHM Makarov (Pivdenmash, formerly PA Yuzhmash) sent a dimensional docking model of the first stage of the Beta medium-range launch vehicle to the customer, Firefly Aerospace.
The model was made at PIVDENMASH under a contract with Firefly Aerospace and in accordance with its design documentation.
The product will simulate the docking of two to four engine units on liquid fuel components.
The model was transported to the Black Sea port, from where the cargo route travel to the Port of Houston in Texas.
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, May 12th, 2021 (Maritime Launch Services PR)—Maritime Launch Services Ltd. (“MLS” or the “Company”), owner of Canada’s first commercial spaceport, is pleased to announce that it has closed financing for gross proceeds of $10.5 million [US $8.67 million].
The financing was led by PowerOne Capital Markets Limited and Primary Capital Inc. The proceeds of this financing will enable MLS to achieve first flight heritage in 2022 of a small class launcher and mature the site and the Cyclone 4M medium class launch vehicle for launch in 2023 from its state-of-the-art complex near Canso, Nova Scotia. With construction to begin this fall, Maritime Launch’s commercial launch complex will be the first of its kind in Canada.
DNIPROPETROVSK, Ukraine (Yuzhmash PR) — On April 28 this year, the contract was signed between Yuzhmash and S7 Sea Launch Limited on the production and supply of Zenit-series launch vehicles.
In general, the contract provides for the production of 12 launch vehicles for use in the Sea Launch and Land Launch programs for the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes in the framework of international space projects.
Now in production there are 2 rockets of modifications of Zenit-3SL and Zenit-3SLB.
The signing of this contract made a big step in overcoming the deep crisis in which Yuzhmash stayed since 2013 and which resulted from a massive decline in production volumes.
Persistent three-year work of the company’s specialists brought results. Today Yuzhmash portfolio of orders for the next few years more than 350 mln. US dollars.
Yuzhmash expresses its deep gratitude to the legislative and executive branches of power for providing the unprecedented, as for our enterprise, regulatory and financial support. Without this support, it was impossible to resume production and overcome the crisis.
Yuzhmash’s withdrawal into stable operation regime will create the appropriate conditions for the corporatization of the enterprise and the search for a strategic investor. The implementation of these measures, in turn, is a prerequisite for achieving the main medium-term goal of Yuzhmash, which is to ensure the full involvement of the enterprise in international cooperation in the production of rocket and space technology.
HALIFAX, NS – DNIPRO, Ukraine (MLS PR) — Maritime Launch Services (MLS) Ltd., established in Halifax, is pleased to announce it has committed to a launch site location following a study of prospective sites across North America. An exhaustive review was conducted which assessed 14 potential locations over the last year.The preferred site is located in the Guysborough Municipality near Canso and Hazel Hill in Nova Scotia, Canada and would host a commercial launch complex for the Cyclone 4M orbital launch vehicle from Ukraine. The criteria evaluated through the study included access to polar/sun synchronous orbit, very low population density, proximity to multimodal transportation, and interest from the community, province and government.
The Antares booster set to lift off on Sunday evening is a re-engineered version of a launch vehicle that exploded spectacularly after launch nearly two years ago.
The key change is the replacement of two Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-26 engines in the first stage with RD-181 engines produced by NPO Energomash of Russia. The new engines are powered by liquid oxygen (LOX) and kerosene.
It looks as if the moribound Sea Launch company could have a new lease on life.
Majority owner Energia has scheduled a press conference with the S7 Group on Tuesday during the International Astronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico. The invitation promises a major announcement about the future of the long troubled venture.
I was just looking at the website for Yuzhmash, which is Ukraine’s principle producer of launch vehicles. I ran across the following letter to employees published on Oct. 10. It includes this rather prediction:
“Pivdenmash [Yuzhmash] is in deep financial crisis, the main factor which is a precipitous decline in production. The current crisis is not irreversible, but the situation is close to the point of no return.
“The actual bankruptcy of the enterprise will result in the loss of Ukraine’s status as a space power, failure of the obligations of the State to enter into international agreements, irreversible loss of proven technologies.”
This was four months ago. And by all accounts, matters have only gotten worse. The fighting eastern Ukraine has intensified. The government’s finances haven’t improved. And employees were given two-month unpaid leaves in late January. That came after many months of 3-day work weeks and partial pay.
Roscosmos officials made announcements this week that they would be suspending a joint program with Ukraine to launch Dnepr rockets and were no longer interested in buying Ukrainian Zenit boosters, deepening problems for that embattled nation’s space program and its struggling Yuzhmash factory.
Dneprs are converted SS-18 ballistic missiles that are converted into satellite launchers by Ukraine’s Yuzhmash launch vehicle manufacturer. The boosters are launched by the Moscow-based Moscow-based Kosmotras International Space Company, which is Russian-Ukrainian joint venture.
Russian media report three Dnepr launches scheduled this year will be carried out. However, The Moscow Timesreports the future of the venture remains cloudy. It is possible the program will end, or Russia will convert the missiles to satellite launchers without Ukrainian participation.
Interfax-Ukraine reports that workers at the A.M. Makarov Southern Machine-Building Plant (PA Yuzhmash) in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine held a rally to protest the lack of pay and work.
The workers build Zenit and Cyclone-4 boosters as well as the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares launch vehicle and the fourth stage for Europe’s Vega rocket. They are also involved in Dnepr, a decommissioned ballistic missile that has been converted into a satellite launcher.
The report indicates that since last July, employees have been working only three days per week and are pay $200 to $300 only once or twice per month. There’s also been a lack of new orders for their products.
The company owes about $150 million in back salaries and other payments, according to the story.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, whose country is responsible for much of Ukraine’s misery, Tweeted the following:
Russia’s new heavy-lift Angara-A5 rocket may replace the Ukrainian Zenit rocket in the Sea Launch project, a source in the space and rocket sector told TASS on Wednesday.
The announcement was made at the recent board of directors meeting of the RKK Energia space corporation. “The documents have already been submitted to the United Rocket and Space Corporation,” the source said.
Ukrainian rocket maker Yuzhmash has signed an agreement under which the Dnepropetrovsk Regional State will provide financial and organizational support to the company and protect against being taken over by Russian separatists.
The announcement came in a May 8 press release. Yuzhmash produces the following launch vehicles and stages:
Zenit — used by Sea Launch and Land Launch for communications satellites
Dnepr — Joint Ukrainian-Russian program that uses converted Soviet-era ballistic missile to launch satellites
Antares — first stage structure and tanks for Orbital Sciences’s launch vehicle
Vega — fourth stage for Europe’s small satellite launch vehicle
Cyclone-4 — Joint Ukrainian-Brazilian commercial satellite launcher with inaugural flight planned from Brazil in 2015.
The full press release is reproduced after the break.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Russian Federation was left with some key installations and capabilities in newly-independent nations. Kazakhstan had authority over the main launch facility at Baikonur, while Ukraine found itself in control of ballistic missile producer Yuzhmash, the Yuzhnoye bureau that designs Yuzhmash’s rockets, and a host of other defense companies.
Today, more than 50 Ukrainian arms factories turn out technologies that are vital for the nation’s tottering economy and the Russian military that now threatens to invade it. The factories are located in the southern and eastern portions of Ukraine, where Moscow-based separatists have wrestled control away from local authorities.
With the fate of these regions and companies still very much up for grabs, the outcome is of concern far beyond eastern Ukraine. Launch providers in the United States, Europe and Brazil are looking on with great concern and trepidation.