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Could Ukraine become a strong ally ESA has been looking for
by Natalia Borotkanych | Space Projects Coordinator - Noosphere
Kyiv, Ukraine (SPX) Sep 12, 2022

After the fighting where next for Ukraine's space sector

The European Space Agency (ESA) said in June that it expects strong support from NASA after the European agency suspended its cooperation with Russia due to the Ukraine war.

"Administrator Bill Nelson has given us a clear message: NASA wants to help Europe in this situation," said ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.

ESA wants to find a silver-bullet solution here and now to cover a hole formed after Russia's expulsion from the Mars mission and resume working on the programme. However, in the long run, ESA needs to find strong allies to develop its own space activities, and Ukraine can become a reliable partner.

Ukraine can become a valuable contributor to ESA
The war demolished what had been a slowly modernizing research system that was beginning to integrate with European partners. Many universities and science centers require large-scale reconstruction.

Now that Ukraine is facing less shelling and bombing, some cities are returning to usual life and resuming scientific research. With significant financial and strategic support from Europe and the US, Ukraine has an opportunity to restore and even enhance its space sector and scientific activities in the next few years.

Before the full-scale war, the government approved the concept of the National Target Scientific and Technical Space Program of Ukraine for 2021-2025 with a budget of euro 151 million only in 2022. Thus, According to the report on the Ukrainian space industry prepared by Noosphere Ventures, Ukraine might rank among the top ten contributors to European space in terms of co-financing ESA programs. With proper investments, the Ukrainian economy will recover in the next 5-7 years, different independent experts predict, so it will be capable of focusing more on space technology development again.

Ukraine has had a great space legacy in the space sector since the days of the USSR and ambitious plans to boost private space companies. No doubt that after the war with Russia, building up its forces in space would be among the top priorities for the country.

Ukraine's lack of satellite technology resulted in the unprecedented purchase of a modern satellite for intelligence needs through a charity fundraising campaign. The war with Russia showed that having its own space and dual-use technologies is vital for security and intelligence reasons. And Ukrainians already have experience applying space imagery for defense and security goals. It seems now that in this area, Ukraine would have something to share with its European colleagues.

Ukrainian space technology to enhance ESA projects
Since 1999, Ukraine has collaborated with ESA under its standards and certifications. It has been a partner of the ESA for a while, but neither side receives all of the benefits until Ukraine joins as a full member.

Despite its strong space heritage, Ukraine was quite isolated due to a lack of permanent international partners in the sector. It was an active member of the Antares rocket project, providing the rocket's first stages, which NASA has been using to ferry cargo and other supplies up to the International Space Station since early 2013. Also, the state-owned company Yuzhmash produces the engines for the European and Italian Space Agency's Vega rockets. Ukraine can supply international missions with important components such as thrusters, electric thrusters, chemical engines, satellite adapters, and in-orbit service. Ukrainian engineers and developers are already widely involved in international space projects as advisors and mentors; however, full-fledged cooperation can open the doors to more opportunities for both the Ukrainian and European space sectors.

For instance, Ukrainian space companies can boost ESA's Mars project and replace Russian components manufacturers for ExoMars. But Ukraine also has a diverse private space sector. Among these companies, SETS (Space Electric Thruster Systems) is one of the most prominent manufacturers of electric propulsion systems for spacecraft. It develops and tests all components of space propulsion systems: Hall thrusters, xenon storage and feed systems, power processing units and automatic control systems. EOS Data Analytics applies the knowledge of Ukrainian data scientists to offer space data collection and analysis to solve business challenges in agriculture, intelligence, infrastructure, forestry, marine, and other industries. While Dragonfly Aerospace, based in South Africa and invested by an international space entrepreneur with Ukrainian roots Max Polyakov, creates high-performance satellite cameras.

There are also more than 60 different space startups that can bring innovative approaches to the sector.

Thanks to its beneficial location and access to crucial logistic road, air, and sea routes, Ukraine is also capable of becoming an innovative developing hub with an extensive network of R and D centers. This will be a cost-effective solution to deliver products and supplies all over Europe.

Poland's scenario of joining the ESA
The experience of neighboring Poland proves that cooperation with ESA significantly impacts its local space sector. Joining in 2012, Poland was mentored by ESA on developing space technology that led to the verification of its technologies on the international market. Today Poland produces research nano-satellites, bigger remote sensing satellites (MikroGlob), and communication satellites (EXATEL). The fruitful cooperation has sped up the growth of the private space sector as well, and currently, there are more than 60 private space companies in the country. ESA can implement the same scenario to integrate Ukraine into its space projects and win from the innovation that has Ukrainian roots but works to advance European space power.

With European space education programs access, a new generation of specialists will contribute even more to ESA space activities. Today many Ukrainian engineers are already working in European firms, and some Ukrainians obtain grants or move to Europe for internships. By joining the EU and ESA, such mind-sharing will also expand Ukrainian economic and technology capabilities on the international stage.

Instead of conclusion
This is a golden hour for Ukraine in terms of establishing international tights and the space sector development is the priority. Ukraine already has a strong technological basis and industrial infrastructure, so ESA contracts and support will turn Ukraine into a key space hub in the middle of Europe. The war slowed down the integration process; however, this is the best time for ESA to invest in a partner with such potential.

Related Links
Ukraine Space Segment and ESA Cooperation Capabilities
The latest information about the Commercial Satellite Industry

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