The Ukrainian space agency has always been short of funding. The Ukrainians used to work closely with the Russians as part of the Soviet program, but that stopped with the breakup of the soviet union. Currently Russia’s leader Putin has bad relations with the Ukraine. Ukraine has the Zenit rocket family
Ukraine had been working on the “lighthouse” project to make expanded rocket engines based on the Zenit engines. Previously it was believed that these were mostly paper studies.
China has money in its space program. China and Ukraine space agencies have a cooperation program. The combination will help China to accelerate technological catch up in space launch capabilities. China has its own teams and rocket designs and internally developed a liquid hydrogen upper stage, but there seems to be a speed up in rocket development by utilizing rocket engines that Ukraine has developed.
Ukrainian designs to get to 250 ton and 500 ton thrust rockets. 500 tons thrust rockets would be need for China’s planned manned moon landing in the 2020s.
The space agencies of Ukraine and China will work on the issue of expanding the current program of Ukrainian-Chinese space cooperation for 2011-2015 with new large-scale projects, the State Space Agency of Ukraine has told Interfax-Ukraine.
Cooperation in the exploration of the Moon and Mars, rocket engine building, space welding and projects in the solar energy area are among the promising cooperation areas of the Ukrainian-Chinese cooperation program.
Ukraine and China signed a program on cooperation in research and peaceful uses of space for 2011-2015 in September 2010.
The program includes over 50 priority and promising joint projects. They concern the creation of a joint space system for Earth observation, a joint ionospheric satellite to create an earthquake prediction system, as well as the creation and delivery to Chinese partners of a wide range of equipment for rocket and space technology.
Ukraine had involvement in the Energia rocket
The RD-170 rocket engine, developed for the Energia project, has been upgraded and is used in Zenit Russian-Ukrainian carrier rockets as RD-171, and in American Atlas 5 launch systems as RD-180.
Spacex, Reusability and What I think China will do
I am a Spacex optimist. However, getting one stage reusable just lowers the cost by 25%. This would be $800 per pound for the Space Heavy. Spacex will need to get to about 2017 before they have all three stages reusable and they have scale it up and prove it reliable which could take to the 2020s. The US launched the space shuttle at about 20,000 per pound for a few decades when there were options that were 10 times cheaper. I see China choosing to suck up the inefficiencies for 15-20 years and putting the investment into to develop reusability. China currently spends about $3-4 billion per year on their space program. China is now spending tens of billions to develop jet engines for planes. Somethings are worth the cost to redevelop for national and strategic interests.