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2 Feb, 2021 15:05

Ukraine in space! Despite desperate financial situation & need for Western aid, deputy PM says country must launch own spacecraft

Ukraine in space! Despite desperate financial situation & need for Western aid, deputy PM says country must launch own spacecraft

Though policymakers in Kiev are embroiled in a bitter row over the constitution and access to Covid-19 jabs, the country’s deputy prime minister says Ukrainians should be setting their sights firmly on a voyage to the stars.

“We have a paradox on our hands,” said Oleg Urusky, who also holds the role of strategic industries minister, in a post on Facebook on Monday. “Ukraine has huge scientific and technical potential to launch its own fleet of spacecraft in near-Earth orbit but, unfortunately, we don’t have one… This situation needs to change.”

He added that, on the same day, the government held a meeting on the creation of a Ukrainian space program “for high-resolution remote sensing” with developers, as well as with potential customers seeking to access satellite services.

While Ukraine has a State Space Agency which receives $80 million a year in funding, it has no history of manned space flights. Much of its work is built on the Soviet-era legacy of aeronautical engineering, based around the area of the Dnieper. In the days of the USSR, it was known as ‘Rocket City’ for its role in manufacturing launch vehicles. However, Ukraine does not have a spaceport of its own and, until the 2014 Maidan, depended on a partnership with Russia’s Federal Space Agency for satellite launches.

Also on rt.com After refusing Russia’s Sputnik V, Ukraine is left without Covid-19 vaccines while Crimea and Donbass begin rollout

Kiev’s ambition to expand its space program may raise eyebrows overseas, given the country is reliant on international aid to balance its books. President Volodymyr Zelensky has attempted to force through a series of anti-corruption reforms after the risk of misappropriation of funds held up requests for a $5.5 billion package from the International Monetary Fund.

At the same time, Ukraine has struggled to elbow its way onto the order books for foreign-made coronavirus vaccines, leaving it well behind other countries on the continent – despite Russian offers of support in accessing supplies of the Sputnik V, which Kiev has continued to refuse. As part of the COVAX initiative, designed to distribute vaccines to developing nations who would otherwise be unable to afford them, the country is receiving around eight million doses free of charge.

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