30 years of space independence

23 Aug 2021

Ukraine has always been rightfully considered the cradle of the astronautics world. After all, the outstanding Ukrainian scientists Kondratyuk, Tsiolkovsky, Lozino-Lozinsky, Glushko, and Korolov were the pioneers of space research and rocket construction.

After gaining independence, the first Ukrainian, Leonid Kadenyuk, went to space in 1997. He participated in two trips with an American astronaut. That was the first time that the anthem of the new Ukrainian nation was played beyond Earth.

By the beginning of the 2000s, Ukraine was one of the top 5 countries as far as space launches, and almost all spacefaring nations of the world collaborated with the State Space Agency of Ukraine.

In the following years, Ukrainians mostly took part in the development and construction of equipment in the quest to conquer space. Over 30 years, more than 150 vehicles have been launched with the aid of Ukrainian experts and companies. The total number of space devices launched into orbit, including the “Sych” satellites, has reached more than 400.

During the last twenty years, Ukrainian engineers and designers have developed rocket control systems, ISS docking equipment, and the creation and launch of the new “Dnepr” rocket.

Today, Ukraine is actively participating in international launch projects “Antares” and “Vega” launch vehicles.

Ukrainian NewSpace

NewSpace is a movement and philosophy that brings together private companies engaged in innovative developments in space exploration. What distinguishes such companies from state-owned companies is their visionary vision, more flexible approach and specific goal – to provide affordable access to space. 

Around the world, the primacy in the space industry is gradually shifting to the NewSpace representatives. This trend has become particularly significant in the context of the 2020 pandemic crisis, where private companies, not governmental ones, have clearly demonstrated the ability to better adapt to new market conditions.

Ukraine has just started along the NewSpace path to space development.

On February 26, 2020, the Government of Ukraine decided to implement the draft proposal “On Amending Certain Laws of Ukraine Regarding the State Regulation of Space Activities”.

Now private companies can be licensed to perform space activities, such as testing launch vehicles and spacecraft (other than computer-based), launching vehicles units and their components or spacecraft, controlling vehicles in orbit or in outer space, and returning these vehicles or their components to Earth.

Mainly, the mission of popularizing NewSpace in Ukraine is mandated by some impassioned public organizations.

Noosphere is proud to be active in this process.

With the support of philanthropist Max Polyakov, who has direct ties to the new “private space”, Noosphere actively works to nurture an ecosystem in Ukraine favorable to engineering start-ups, including space start-ups.

To attract the younger generation to engineering, Noosphere has created a network of engineering schools. Today Noosphere Engineering School operates in 7 regional centers of the country, with one of the schools specializing directly in space developments.

For more experienced specialists who already have prototypes of their projects, Noosphere hosts the Vernadsky Challenge engineering startup competition, with a main prize of 2 million hryvnias. The first contest was held in 2015 and was immediately an international competition – applications were received from 5 countries.

In 2019, the contest streamlined to two main categories of space technology and active bioelectronics. Among the winners of the 2019 contest, 2nd place and a development grant of 600,000 ₴ went to a team including graduates and students of the Institute of Aerospace Technologies at the Kiev Polytechnic Institute named after Igor Sikorsky. The team’s winning project was MyDraco. This is a personal and fully ecological electric vertical take-off vehicle.

Over 600 teams from 36 countries have participated in the competition over its 5 years. In 2020, the Vernadsky Challenge received a record number of applications, 132, from developers of space technology and active bioelectronics.

Interestingly, 43 Ukrainian startups took part, which is more than half of the space technology category.

One of the Ukrainian representatives of the space industry finalists was a project of suborbital rocket K300Geo.

The K300Geo rocket is an ideal first stage in creating an ultralight carrier for placing small spacecraft in orbit around the Earth. 

Space as a Cultural Phenomenon

For those who are inclined to pursue space more creatively, Noosphere launched art initiatives.

“Space Nation- Space Talents!” – was the slogan of the national competition Noosphere Art Rocket Park, for artists and designers. This initiative demonstrated that there is a real interest in the topic of space in Ukraine. More than 400 talented artists from all over the country took part in the contest.

Participants ranged from famous artists and designers to talented students of art trends.

The top 20 designs will be transferred to 1.5 meter-high rocket sculptures and exhibited in Gagarin Park in the fall of 2021. Following the exhibition, the rockets will be sold at auction, the proceeds of which will be used to continue the restoration of the park. 

In addition to Noosphere initiative events, we annually hold regional stages of international competitions such as ActInSpace and the NASA International Space Apps Challenge. Thanks to such initiatives, Ukrainian projects have become known all over the world. At the end of 2020, the FireWay team, the winner of the local stage of NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge, represented Ukraine in the finals and won in the Technology category.

Ukraine Reclaiming Role as Space Leader?

Some facts are forever remembered in history to inspire the next generation. Thanks to Ukrainian Sergiy Korolov, the first manned space flight took place. He was behind the development of the famous “Soyuz” rocket, which continues to deliver astronauts to the ISS to this day. We can proudly remember the majestic “Arsenal”, “Monolit” and “Kommunar”, where the first satellite was developed, and the entire Soviet program would not exist without the Dnipro industrial giants of the time.

New times and conditions always bring new challenges. To become a full-fledged NewSpace contender, Ukraine needs more years of painstaking work.

In the end, three decades is not that long for space independence. But we are moving in the right direction. And we already have something to be proud of. We believe that every year our achievements will continue to grow!