EOS Data Analytics’ space project coordinator Dr Nataliia Borotkanych told Express.co.uk: “Space is becoming a political arena, and Europe’s striving to get space autonomy and become a leading player in the space industry. As one of the spacefaring nations and with substantial history, Ukraine can help Europe to ensure its safety and security through space technologies. This is especially the case considering that Russia has been excluded from international space programs, and Ukraine could replace Russia in some of the efforts.”
Ukraine has much to offer Europe on the space industry front — with the country having established ground infrastructure and having long been an important manufacturer of rockets, launch vehicles and other forms of space equipment.
In fact, the Ukrainian state space sector currently employs more than 16,000 specialists — a staff complement equal to that of NASA — with more than 30 different space startups have entered the market in the last decade alone on top of that.
Ukraine is also one of one 10 countries that can have a full manufacturing cycle of space products — something that Dr Borotkanych said may well “significantly contribute to the independence of the European space market” should Ukraine become part of the ESA.
The nation has five individual design bureaus and eight manufacturing enterprises — and has individually conducted more than 150 rocket launches since its independence in 1991.
For example, the state-owned aerospace firm Yuzhmash produces the first stages of the American Antares Rockets which NASA has been using to ferry cargo and other supplies up to the International Space Station since early 2013.
Yuzhmash has also been responsible for the production of the engines for the European and Italian Space Agency’s Vega rockets — which carry small satellite payloads into low-Earth and polar orbits — and is developing the Cyclone-4M carrier rocket which is intended to serve commercial launches from a spaceport in Canso, Nova Scotia from 2024–2025.
Dr Borotkanych said: “Ukrainian scientists have created a number of nanoscales that can be used in space technology.
These include, she explained, “samples of heat-resistant nanodisperse aluminium composites” that could be used on spacecraft hulls, “ solid, radiation-proof, electrical conductive lubricants for space” and “materials for high-capacity lithium batteries, conversion of solar energy to other types of energy, etc”.
The ESA has also expressed an interest in a membrane-less electric imager produced by the Yuzhnoye Design Office, another Ukrainian state-owned company, with engineers eyeing the device for applications during future lunar expeditions.
According to Dr Borotkanych, the State Space Agency of Ukraine (SSAU) has been working towards ESA membership since 2008. Ukraine is presently the signatory of a cooperation agreement with the ESA.
An ESA spokesperson told Express.co.uk that: “The Director-General of ESA has received a request from the Head of the SSAU on April 6 to begin negotiations in view of concluding a European Cooperating States Agreement.
“At the ESA Council on 13 March, ESA Member States had agreed that the Agency will now start discussions with the SSAU about a possible European Cooperating State Agreement.”
The ESA has declined, at present, to comment further on the potential outcome of these discussions.