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Ukrainians Working on Taurus II Second Stage Propulsion

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
January 23, 2011
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Ukraine space agency Chairman Yuri AlekseyevThe National Space Agency of Ukraine has posted an interesting Q&A with Chairman Yuri Alekseyev in which he discusses his organization’s key role in supplying rockets and space technologies worldwide. Ukraine inherited a great deal of Soviet space capability after that nation broke up, and it has maintained and expanded it despite periods of severe economic chaos. Ukraine’s rockets include the Zenit, Dnepr (Dnipro), and Cyclone-4.

Among the topics Alekseyev discussed include an increased role in Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Taurus II program and a joint venture to launch Cyclone-4 rockets from Brazil beginning in 2012.

Highlights of the interview:

OSC’s Taurus II Rocket

The first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II vehicle is shipped out from Yuzhnoye design bureau in Ukraine. (Credt: Yuzhnoye)

“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 2nd 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.”

[Editor’s Note: Ukraine’s work on the second stage propulsion system is interesting. The rocket’s second stage is supposed to be the solid fuel Castor 30, which is being developed by ATK. It is a derivative of the Castor 120 solid stage.]

Ukraine’s Rocket Manufacturing Work

“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.”

[Editor’s Note: The Sea Launch consortium, which went bankrupt in 2009, is set to return to operations later this year with majority Russian ownership. It launches Zenits from an off-shore platform. Zenits are also sent into space under from Baikonur Cosmodrome under Land Launch, which includes Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

The Dnipro (Dnepr) is a converted SS-18 ballistic missile (codenamed Satan by NATO) that is launched from Baikonur and Yasny in Russia. ]

Cyclone 4 Project With Brazil

“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….

Ukraine's Cyclone-4 rocket

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.

“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.”

[Editor’s Note: Wikipedia says the commercial rocket is based on the Cyclone-3, a Soviet era booster that made its first flight in 1977. The rocket retired it in 2009 in favor of the new Angara, which is all Russian and does not burn toxic propellants.

The Cyclone-4 project was begun in 2002 with a planned inaugural launch in 2006. However, economic problems in Ukraine and protests by Indians in Brazil over the construction of the launch complex on their land have delayed the first flight to 2012. Alekseyev said that a launch site under the control of the Brazilian military was identified, resolving the Indian protests.]