Dmitriy Nikon is Chief Economist at Yuzhmash.
- Is there any use to produce small-lift launch vehicles?
For myself, I keep statistics of carrier rocket launches in the world. Upon this information, I can say that until 2017, approximately 800-900 satellites were operating in Earth’s orbit. Since 2018, this number has doubled, if not tripled. Such a leap took place very quickly thanks to Elon Musk, who began to implement his Starlink, which is a project to create a global broadband Internet system. Thanks to this project, it is planned to provide all the inhabitants of the Earth with the Internet.
The number of satellites is constantly growing in orbit. Soon, Elon Max will launch another series of satellites. Each time he launches about 60 spacecraft belonging to the category of small satellites.
Considering our Dnepr launch vehicle, it has launched up to 35 satellites at once. The Vega launch vehicle, which is currently preparing to launch from a cosmodrome in French Guiana and this vehicle has to launch 53 satellites into orbit.
So, we can state that the number of launches is practically not increasing, but the number of launched satellites has grown significantly and is growing with each launch.
Small satellites, which Elon Max is now launching, will sooner or later break down. To replace such a satellite, it is not necessary to launch Falcon 9 or the same Vega vehicle. An inexpensive delivery vehicle is needed that will specifically change one or another satellite that having worked its potential. This, I believe, is the niche for small-lift launch vehicles.
- To what extent is YUZHMASH ready to create such technology?
YUZHMASH is a full cycle enterprise. We can manufacture all rocket components except electronics, for example the body of the rocket, motors, valves, etc. But there are a lot of «iron» manufacturers. By the way, in our Aerospace Center for Youth Education there is a сlass, where students are the graduates of the Department of Physics and Technology of DNU. They develop drawings and produce rockets that can launch at an altitude of 20 km.
There are many startups from Odessa, Kharkov and from other cities, where it is also possible to develop rockets. And if one of them comes to us with their orders, we will only be glad to place them at YUZHMASH. This is one of the ways.
It is also possible to create a development unit at YUZHMASH, which will specialize in the creation of a small-lift launch.
In any case, first there must be an idea, and I believe there is a market for a small-lift launch.