The wreckage of the Ukrainian Zenit-2 rocket that crashed after its launch in Kazakhstan September 10 was found the following day near the border between Russian regions of Altay and Tuva (Fakty I Kommentarii, September 12). Ukrainian media cited officials from Yuzhnoe design bureau of Dnipropetrovsk, where Zenit was designed in 1981, saying that the disaster was most probably caused by a fault of a Moscow-designed computer which stopped the engine of the rocket’s second stage. U.S. Under Secretary of State, Stuart Eizenstat, commenting in Kyiv on reports that Globalstar may stop using Zenits in favor of Russian Soyuz carrier rockets, said that Washington cannot push a private company to reverse its decisions (Ukrainian media, September 11-12).
In 1995 Ukraine won a tender by Space System Loral for launching thirty-six of the forty-six satellites to form the Globalstar communications system. The abortive launch of twelve satellites on September 10 was the first in a series of three Zenit-2 launches. It was to be followed by another two in October and December. This was the thirty-second launch of Zenit and the eighth unsuccessful one.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma reacted promptly, calling the event “a great tragedy.” “It is,” he said, “our mistake and we are to rectify it.” Ukraine has set up a commission to investigate the crash independently of Russian and American investigations (Ukrainian media, September 11). Ukraine–and Kuchma personally, a former director of Yuzhmash plant, the manufacturer of Zenits–pinned great hopes on Ukraine’s participation in both Global Star and Sea Launch, another multinational space project to use Dnipropetrovsk-manufactured Zenits. Sea Launch is to involve Boeing, Norway’s Kvaerner and Moscow’s Energia research center. Both projects were to revive Yuzhmash’s ballistic missile production facilities, each pretty much idle since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Development of the airspace industry, the only Ukrainian industry capable of competing on the world market in high technology, was proclaimed the state’s first priority by Kuchma.
Now not only is further participation by Ukraine in Global Star and Sea Launch projects in question, but also the broader issue of entry of the cash-strapped Ukraine on the lucrative international space services market. Ukraine hoped to become the Global Star operator in Southern and Eastern Europe. A central control station for this purpose is now under construction in Crimea. Ukrainian airspace industry also coveted participation in the International Space Station or the Alpha program in cooperation with Russia. The combined effect of the Baykonur fiasco and the financial crisis may seriously hamper Ukraine’s prospects on the global airspace market. –OV
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