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Ukraine launched its satellite into orbit using Space X Elon Musk: how it was

On January 13, for the first time in 10 years, a Ukrainian satellite entered orbit. At 10:30 am New York time, a Falcon 9 rocket was launched at the Cape Canaveral Cosmodrome in Florida. with the BBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

It is this rocket, developed by Ilona Mask's Space X, that is the carrier for the Ukrainian optical satellite Sich-2-30. The launch could be watched at YouTube channel of the company.

The separation of the satellite from the rocket and the launch into orbit are scheduled at 11.50, and already at 13.15 it will fly over Ukraine and will soon send the first image.

For Ukraine, the launch of the satellite could mark the first step towards overcoming the crisis in the space industry. It will be useful not only for performing important civilian tasks, such as monitoring the environment or emergencies, but also monitoring the movement of troops.

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The success of Sich-2-30 can give the green light to launch a whole group of satellites that will help the Ukrainian economy grow and the Ukrainian military to monitor the enemy.

Cosmic oblivion

For ten years, the Ukrainian space industry has been in crisis. The country sent its last satellite Sich-2 into orbit in August 2011 using the Dnepr-1 launch vehicle, which was then produced at Yuzhmash with the involvement of Russian companies.

The launch took place at a base in the Orenburg region of the Russian Federation. Already in December 2012, communication with the satellite was lost.
Later it turned out that the problem arose due to a Russian-made battery. Thus, Sich-2 worked for only a little more than a year out of five, which the developers expected.

Since then, Ukraine has no more satellites in orbit.

After the start of the war in Donbass in 2014, cooperation with Russia in the aerospace sector ceased, and the Ukrainian aerospace industry was left without a number of Russian components important for the production of satellites. Also under the control of Russia in Evpatoria was the Center for Control and Testing of Space Vehicles, along with the equipment that was used to control the Sich-2 satellite.

The story of the development of the telecommunications satellite Lybid, for which Ukraine took a loan of $ 292 million from Canada, ended in disgrace and lawsuits. The Ukrainians never saw it in operation.
In 2014 and 2017, only small research nanosatellites PolyITAN (weighing 1-2 kg), developed by scientists from the Kiev Polytechnic Institute, were launched.

Which satellite is being launched now

According to the State Space Agency, the development of the Sich-2-30 satellite began in 2017 at the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau named after M. K. Yangel ". At this enterprise in Dnipro, it was designed, tested and prepared for launch. Some of the components were manufactured at Yuzhmash.

The satellite was initially called Sich-2-1, since it was a modified version of Sich-2, launched in 2011. The satellite was renamed Sich-2-30, since President Zelensky ordered to launch it in the year of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of independence.

Konstantin Belousov, chief designer and head of the spacecraft design bureau at the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau, who led the development of the satellite, says that although Sich-2-30 is a direct successor to Sich-2, there are differences between them.

“This is the direct successor, a modernized version of the Sich-2. But the low-quality components were replaced with high-quality ones, the software was finalized. We believe that Sich-2-30 will have a longer lifespan. It is launched by another rocket into a lower orbit at an altitude of 525 km, which will give the image quality, ”explains the designer.
The Yuzhnoye Design Bureau resolved the issue of replacing Russian elements previously used for satellites.

“In the EU and Korea, we bought service communication systems and sensors. The chemical battery was purchased in France from a well-known company that provides the required quality. But the purchased components are less than those developed in Ukraine, ”Belousov noted.

New devices and their elaboration increased the period of work, but, according to the designer, they prepared the satellite rather quickly.

“The satellite was actively created for about three years. We did it as quickly as possible. And the final tests and testing were carried out over the past month - this is very fast, ”he stressed.

The cost of producing the satellite, according to the designer, reached $ 4,5-5 million.

However, these are approximate figures, because the dollar exchange rate fluctuated in 2017-2021. Moreover, not all funds have been allocated from the state budget.

Launching with a Space X rocket is another $ 1,99 million. As Konstantin Belousov noted, the price offer and implementation period proposed by the American company turned out to be the best.

“The idea was to launch a satellite into orbit in 2021. No other provider provided the launch in such a short time frame. And Space X was ready for this in December 2021, but for technical reasons everything had to be postponed to January. But all the same, here the price is the best, ”he explains.

Why do we need this satellite

The State Space Agency reported that the satellite will primarily perform civilian tasks.

We are talking about monitoring the use of land, vegetation, forest and water resources, as well as assistance in eliminating the consequences of natural disasters and digitalizing the economy.

"Sech-2-30 is designed to survey the surface of the earth with a spatial separation of 7 meters in a wide swath of more than 36 km", - according to the State Space Agency.

This means that any object over 7 meters will be visible in the images, and the satellite will simultaneously receive an image from a distance of 36 km.

“It can be used to search for sources of emergency situations, to monitor the state of forestry. With the help of this satellite, it is easy to record fires, deforestation, oil spills, river pollution, grain harvests,” says Konstantin Belousov.

According to him, the satellite provides not only optical information, it can be used to conduct scientific research of the ionosphere.

Although the Sich-2-30 has a civilian purpose, it will provide high-quality data necessary for the defense of Ukraine. The State Space Agency says it has received information on "the creation of engineering structures, the movement of military equipment and ships."

“It has a large swath: in one pass, it can provide information on an area more than 36 km wide. And this, in fact, can be a demarcation line on both sides,” explains Konstantin Belousov.

He notes that obtaining information of this nature is not the main task of Sich-2-30. Ukraine needs to develop more modern satellites that provide for a draft state space program for 2021-2025.

How it will work

The Sich-2-30 should send the first images a few hours after the launch.

“After launch, Sich-2-30 will be integrated into Copernicus, the European Union's Earth observation program. Ukraine will be able to receive images from the satellite every day, ”the space agency notes.

The images will be sent to the Mission Control Center, which, after the loss of the corresponding center in Evpatoria in 2021, was placed near the city of Dunaevtsy, Khmelnitsky region. Since Soviet times, the Center for Receiving and Processing Special Information has been located here, which receives data on spacecraft.

“This is the main institution. It ensures the operation of the technical system - issuing control commands, calculating the orbit, scheduling surveys. Here, a ground control element was created anew, allowing to receive information from a satellite, to manage the entire development. There are ground stations that provide radio communication with the satellite, as well as software and hardware that plan its work and provide information, ”explains Belousov.

Government agencies will be able to receive images from satellite for free within XNUMX hours, in some cases the shooting will be urgent.

And only clouds can make it impossible to take pictures.

“If there are clouds between the satellite and the Earth, not a single optical satellite, Ukrainian or otherwise, will be able to receive an image. They are not able to work in cloudy weather, as well as telescopes working from Earth and observing the stars, because the clouds obscure the view. This is a physical phenomenon that no one can bypass, ”explains Belousov.

But, according to him, in this situation it will help that in Ukraine only about 80 out of 365 days a year are cloudy, and the vast territory of Ukraine, where the weather is constantly changing.

After putting the satellite into orbit, engineers and designers of the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau must tune it.

“We will support the apparatus remotely, receive the necessary information, study it and give recommendations. We support our products throughout the entire period of their existence, "Belousov assured.

The developers expect the satellite to operate for at least three years.

“According to our estimates, three years is the minimum period for it to be in orbit. If there is high solar activity, the satellite will not fail, but for ballistic reasons it can begin to decline and burn up in the upper atmosphere. But I believe that this will not happen, this is the worst scenario. Sich-2-30 can operate for five or even more years, ”Belousov is convinced.

Further - more: satellites for the needs of the army

Sich-2-30 will become Ukraine's first own satellite in orbit. By 2025, Goskosmos wants to deploy 7 more.

“The launch of a satellite is part of the space program, its first step. By 2025, Ukraine plans to deploy a group of Ukrainian satellites in orbit: 6 more devices of high spatial fragmentation (1 meter resolution) and one ultra-high (0,5 meter). There will be 8 satellites in total,” the State Space Agency said.

It is planned to expand the use of these satellites in the areas of security and defense, in particular for the purposes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

To implement these plans, the State Space Agency is awaiting approval of the scientific and technical space program for 2021-2025. The corresponding bill is now under consideration in the Verkhovna Rada.

This state program provides not only for the launch of satellites, but also for the development of rocket technology, the manufacture of the components of the Antares and Vega carrier rockets, the deployment of a command and measuring station for telemetric information at the Ukrainian Antarctic station "Akademik Vernadsky".

Ukraine can return to the club of space powers?

Ukrainian expert on the aerospace industry, former adviser to the head of the State Space Agency Andriy Kolesnik believes that the launch of the Sich-2-30 could be the first step to bring the space industry of Ukraine out of the crisis.

“This step cannot reverse the trend, but it will demonstrate that we are able to return to the club of space states,” he is convinced.

The satellite has already become a contribution to the development of the country's space industry, because the people who worked on it received skills, and the involved enterprises and institutions updated the equipment.

“This launch provides an opportunity for Ukraine to update its satellite self-control skills. We will again get experienced personnel who know how to operate a satellite, because in 10 years some of the specialists who knew how to do this have left, and new ones who didn’t know how have come, ”explains Kolesnik.

At the same time, he notes that the satellite direction of the space industry requires new orders and design solutions.

“Sech-2-30 uses technologies that were used 15 years ago. The value is that it will provide an overview image. In the future, we need satellites with better technical characteristics, allowing us to distinguish certain objects on the ground that our military needs, ”the designer argues.

In his opinion, satellites with a high spatial fragmentation (1 meter) and ultra-high (0,5 meters), the development of which is assumed by the draft state space program, will be of greater importance for the military than Sich-2-30.

“Sech-2-30 is able to provide information that something new has appeared on some limited piece of land, and this is a military camp, and a cluster of equipment, and a military convoy, but it will not be able to give detailed pictures about what exactly is in this column or cluster of equipment,” the expert specified.

At the same time, the technological capabilities of Ukraine in the development of satellites with ultra-high fragmentation are limited.

“As for a satellite with ultra-high fragmentation, we do not yet have special equipment to achieve it,” explains Andrei Kolesnik.

In addition, in order to avoid barriers to observation in the form of clouds, it is necessary to develop satellites with radar technology, rather than optical technology, which is represented by Sich-2-30. They will allow you to observe both at night and in cloudy weather.

“With radar technology, we are worse - there are no specialists and equipment, but if we start the satellite program, we will gradually be able to move on to the creation of radar satellites,” the expert noted.

Billions in space: how much Ukraine and the world are spending

Andrei Kolesnik notes that the states creating satellite groups are trying to combine radar and optical satellites. But radar ones are much more expensive.

“In terms of fragmentation, radar satellites are inferior to optical ones. Only in recent years in the West have they developed technologies that have made it possible to approach the level of optical ones, but no one will share such technologies with us - you need to rely on your own strength. This requires years of specialist training and big finances, ”sums up the designer. ...

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