Ukrainian achievements on the way towards space exploration – Serhii Veretiuk, Head of NES

When speaking about Ukrainian achievements in science and space, people mostly refer to the Soviet era. It was a time for bold experiments and “firsts” – the first satellite launch, the first man in orbit, the first Moon landing etc. To a certain extent, Ukrainians contributed to each of the mentioned achievements.

After the country gained independence, establishing its scientific institutions and space agency took time. But today, Ukraine is happy to share its accomplishments.

Serhii Veretiuk, PhD in Technical Sciences, Head of Noosphere Engineering School, gave an overview of the Ukrainian achievements on the way towards space exploration.

Fields Medal for the proof of Kepler’s conjecture

In 2022, Maryna Viazovska, a Ukrainian mathematician and a professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, became the second woman in history to receive the Fields Medal. Viazovska provided proof for higher-dimensional equivalents of the stacking of equal-sized spheres by solving the sphere-packing problem (Kepler’s conjecture) in dimension 8.

Kepler is best known for discovering that the planets move around the sun in elliptical orbits. The solution provided by Viazovska has a practical impact. According to the mathematician Erica Klarreich, the packings of higher-dimensional spheres are “closely related to the error-correcting codes that cell phones, space probes and the Internet use to send signals through noisy channels.”

Yuri Izotov and the mysteries of our Universe

Yuri is one of the most cited Ukrainian researchers in the world. Together with his American counterpart, the Ukrainian scientist found the universe’s youngest galaxy, which is only 500 million years old. A group of researchers from five countries led by Dr Yuri Izotov from the Main Astronomical Observatory in Ukraine proved that so-called ‘green pea’ galaxies were the reason that the Universe heated up about 13 billion years ago. Yuri became one of the most well-known astrophysicists of our time as a result of this finding, which caused a stir within the scientific community.

Exocomets discovery

Astronomers from the Main Astronomical Observatory (MAO) of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Kyiv discovered five new exocomets – comets orbiting a star other than the sun – with the help of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) data. These newly discovered exocomets are swirling around the Beta Pictoris star. Since Beta Pictoris forms a planetary system that is considerably younger than the Sun’s, it provides a helpful glimpse of what occurred throughout this period of a planetary system’s youth. 

Ukrainians aren’t the first to see exocomets, but they are the first to identify them specifically through transits, which are tiny drops in the brightness of a star when a comet passes in front of it.

A new generation of scientists

Ukraine is also strengthening the younger generation of scientists. For instance, within Noosphere Engineering School, students from leading universities work on scientific and space projects under the guidance of mentors. The laboratories allow for the implementation of the students’ project “Rocketry Agency” – designing a “family” of ultralight suborbital rocket systems reaching heights of up to 100 km. 

Students obtain new knowledge while practicing and experimenting with technologies and manufacturing methods. They perform full-cycle rocket engineering: design, construction, manufacturing of components and assemblies, technological preparation of production, operation of missile complexes and reliability control, development of on-board radio-electronic equipment, development of systems and means of external trajectory measurements and control as part of the ground equipment. 

In 2021, the “Rocketry Agency” team launched a reusable rocket, “K80 CanSat mod 2” with a lift height of up to 2 km; the “K80 Meteo 7000 mod 2” research rocket with a lift height of up to 7 km; and the suborbital research rocket “K110 Meteo 40000 mod 1” with a lift height of up to 40 km.

Among others, students are developing solid mixed fuel compositions with high energy characteristics that are safe for the environment, liquid mono fuel, systems minimizing exclusion zones during rocket launches, flight support and control systems, etc. A young Ukrainian inventor has also created a satellite form factor using his research findings. The compact satellite has a size of 1/10U. It makes the new stacking technology available, enabling the output of 10 missions in one unit.

Even though there is little talk about Ukrainians making world-changing scientific discoveries, it does not mean the development of space science has stopped. Ukraine has been through a challenging period, but it keeps up with the modern agenda despite all the challenges. From solving the most complicated riddles of science to students’ achievements – Ukrainian scientists are eager to contribute. With Ukraine as a member of the European Space Agency and with access to the international space community, Ukrainian scientists and engineers will surely enhance European space projects.

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