Tue Feb 3, 2015 11:10AM
Russia’s federal space agency, Roscosmos, says it has suspended a joint project with Ukraine aimed at converting nuclear missiles into mechanisms for launching satellites.
The Roscosmos press service made the announcement on Monday, saying the fate of the “Dnepr” program will be decided in the future.
The project consisted of rebuilding strategic RS-missiles to launch satellites into space.
However, Russian media said that the Ukrainian side of the program, represented by the PA Yuzhmash plant – a producer of space rockets and satellites, among other equipment – has been hit by financial difficulties. On January 22, the plant’s employees were sent on unpaid vacation for two months amid mounting debt.
PA Yuzhmas Director General Vladimir Tkachenko said the plant had heavily relied on orders from Russia to make ends meet.
Roscosmos has, however, decided not to buy any more rockets from the firm as it has built its own rocket family dubbed “Angara.”
“Our industry has just completed the production of a modern rocket [Angara] that allows us to perform any task and we felt there was no longer the need to buy missiles from Ukraine,” Roscosmos representative Igor Burenkov said.
The two countries entered a joint agreement in 1997 in which Dnepr rockets were built on the basis of a surplus of SS-18 Satan missiles. The rockets were launched from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, with a total of 20 successful launches since 1999.
The rebuilt Depnr rockets have also been sold by the Russian based Kosmotras International Space Company for commercial and scientific use internationally. Until last June, 34 satellites had been launched into orbit for customers from 17 different countries.