Will Ukraine Build a Lunar Lander?
Ukraine's Yuzhnoye rocket and satellite company showed off a one-fifth scale model of a planned lunar lander-hopper at this year's Dubai Airshow
Photo Yuzhnoye SDO
With both nations and private companies announcing plans to build permanent Moon bases in the near future, Ukrainian rocket company Yuzhnoye wants to build a lunar lander-hopper to scout out a good spot.
Yuzhnoye showed off a one-fifth scale model of its planned lunar lander-hopper at this year’s Dubai Airshow – which started last Sunday (Nov. 17) and will continue until Thursday (Nov.21).
Were a full-scale – 1,715 kilogram (without payload) model – successfully developed, Yuzhnoye says it would be able to do quite a lot of stuff.
The primary thing Yuzhnoye is offering is a vehicle that could actually land on the moon. While that may seem like a given for a so-called “lander,” in fact, it’s no small feat.
This year, both the private Israeli company SpaceIL and the Indian government tried and failed to land on the moon. However, the Dnipro-based Yuzhnoye Design Office, which was born in the Soviet Union and used to make intercontinental ballistic missiles during the Cold War, can market its deep history in the rocket and satellite business.
Beyond landing, its partly solar-powered design could carry a variety of scientific instruments such as a camera that could shoot panoramic photographs of the moon using different spectrums of light – a feature invaluable for scientists attempting to understand the composition of the materials the lunar lander-hopper would observe. It would also be able to drill into Moon regolith, the dusty layer of materials on the moon’s surface. It could measure radiation levels, lunar soil gases, and search for ice – likely a necessary feature for lunar settlement.
Furthermore, using Yuzhnoye’s RD840 engines, the vehicle would also be able to travel across the moon via an up-to-20-kilometer “hop.”
Whether the space industry will kick off in Ukraine remains to be seen, but if newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has his way, then it will. In October, at a meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Japan, Zelensky raised the prospect of reigniting stalled plans -where Yuzhnoye would partner with Brazil to build rockets that could launch satellites from Brazil’s Alcantara Launch Center, which, being near the equator is an ideal spot for launching geostationary satellites.
Meanwhile, Yuzhnoye’s lunar lander-hopper seems to be garnering interest at the Dubai Airshow.
“Conceptual design of the family of lunar lander-hoppers, presented by Yuzhnoye SDO at the Dubai Airshow 2019, became the real attention grabber of the YSDO display at the 16th International aerospace exhibition,” Yuzhnoye posted rather dryly on its website.