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In late 2011 the prime minister of Ukraine said the following:

But it is impossible to predict what will happen in 20 years. I will tell you a story: I just got back from a plant in Dnipropetrovsk. Only 20 years ago, it was a highly classified facility that produced missiles and satellites for the Soviet Union. Today, I saw with my own eyes: it is producing the first stage of parts for the US-designed Stanford Torus space station in collaboration with scientists from the United States. You cannot imagine the level of cooperation and trust this requires. Who could have imagined that 20 years ago, during the Cold War?

Washington Times, November 7th 2011

What on Earth was he talking about?

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    He cites the facility as a known rocket-building plant in Dnipropetrovsk: Yuzhmash - yuzhmash.com – samthebrand Apr 18 '13 at 4:09
  • I sent them a mail asking about the Stanford Torus space station. – Wertilq Apr 18 '13 at 7:15
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    The Stanford Torus is a 1977 design for "a space habitat where 10,000 people work, raise families, and live out normal human lives." Ref. It seems unlikely that (a) NASA has the budget for constructing this, (b) that they are trying to keep it secret and yet allowing the Ukraine P.M. to blab about it and (c) using a 36-year old design. Perhaps the P.M. is ill-informed or simply inattentive and confused. – RedGrittyBrick Apr 18 '13 at 8:13
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    Considering I can't find ANY other information about it, except for what the prime minister said. Generally such a huge thing SHOULD create quite a bit of buzz, or there should at least be some information on the web. – Wertilq Apr 18 '13 at 13:10
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There are no traces anywhere of a Stanford torus being built by NASA, and such undertaking is highly unlikely. However, what was built in cooperation between NASA and Ukraine in the Yuzhmash in 2011 was the Antares project:

http://usa.mfa.gov.ua/en/ukraine-us/science

The signing on March 31, 2008 of the Framework Agreement between the Government of Ukraine and the Government of the United States of America for Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes

...

An example of a successful Ukrainian-American cooperation in the space sector is a realization of "Antares” project . As part of the project Ukrainian State Enterprise “Pivdenne” in cooperation with American "Orbital Sciences Corporation" develops a new space launch system "Antares", basing on “Mayak” launch vehicle of its own design. The project also involves Ukrainian enterprises “Makarov Southern Machine-Building Plant”, “Khartron-Arcos "and American "Aerojet"company.

The National Space Agency of Ukraine provides scientific and technical support for the development, manufacturing and testing of the Ukrainian units and systems of "Antares" project. As of November 2010 all basic components and systems for future launch vehicles were manufactured and shipped from Ukraine to the customer (Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, USA).

The design office of Yuzhmash is located in the Pivdenne city in the Dnipropetrovsk area:

The design bureau is currently known as Pivdenne Design Bureau

The project was called Taurus II at that time:

has changed its name from Taurus II to the Antares.

The rocket is intended to transport cargo to the ISS besides other things:

Taurus II and Cygnus would be developed to perform a demonstration of commercial cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS).

Note: the Stanford Torus is not a part of the direct quote in the questioned article, the interview referred to in the Washington Times was done by Global Post and the quote in the question seems to come from this article:

I just got back from a plant in Dnipropetrovsk. Only 20 years ago, it was a highly classified facility that produced missiles and satellites for the Soviet Union. Today, I saw with my own eyes: it is producing the first stage of parts for the US-designed Stanford Torus space station in collaboration with scientists from the United States.

How it happened that Taurus II was confused with Stanford Torus is something which we will probably never learn, but it seems quite possible for such confusion to happen.

Anyway, the core of the Azarov's message was the amazing collaboration, which was real, only the object of the collaboration was a bit different, and it is quite possible Azarov was not very careful about learning what exactly is the object of the collaboration.

A speculation: english pronunciation of Taurus and Torus is very close. (Merriam Webster transcribes both words as \ˈtȯr-əs\ - see Taurus and Torus). Perhaps Ukrainian personnel used an English pronunciation for the Taurus name, as they adopted it from their NASA colleagues. If the PM was told \ˈtȯr-əs\ is built there, and later tried to inform on the web what Torus is in NASA terminology, the first few hits for the Torus NASA query were about Stanford Torus.

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    I think that's probably it - confusion over "Taurus". Nicely done! – Craig McMahon Apr 19 '13 at 6:30
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It's impossible to prove a negative, but it is possible to show that it's very unlikely, and a secret Stanford Torus project is not likely for several reasons:

Constructing any sizable space station would involve thousands of people working for many years. While you could argue that the Ukraine may be able to keep people on-site and off the grid and unable to leak information about the project, it's unlikely that the Nasa side would be so air tight. This is a common argument against faking the moon landings - it's unlikely that thousands of people could work on a project and not let something leak.

There are exceptions, of course, the work at England's Bletchley Park during WWII was so secretive that there is a story of a husband and wife that worked at the facility at the same time, but they didn't reveal it to each other until some of the secrecy of the site was lifted in the 1970's, decades after they worked there.

But Bletchly Park only had around 9000 employees, many of them military and all of them believing that the secrecy of their work was important to their country's survival. And it was well before today's social media that makes sharing private information easy to do inadvertantly.

Constructing a full-size Torus spacestation along with associated heavy lift capability would be on-par with the Apollo project - that project involved over 400,000 workers including NASA employees and contractors. Even the much smaller Mars Rover project employed 700 NASA workers, but involved 7000 other workers at various subcontractors over 8 years.

There's also the issue of money -- the ISS (much smaller than the proposed Torus) was built by an international coalition of nations for an estimated total cost of $150B including the cost of spaceflights to build it and and for ongoing missions.

A "small" Stanford Torus housing only 10,000 people would have to cost at least 100 times as much (likely much more), probably well into the trillions of dollars. Nasa's annual budget is around $18B, so it's not like they could fund it out of their spare change, and the Ukraine's entire GDP is only around $150B so they aren't going to have a lot of money to fund it. Even the USA's GDP is "only" $15T, so it would be hard to secretly fund a project costing trillions of dollars.

A 1.8 km Torus would need around 10M tons of material. The Saturn V rocket used for Apollo missions could launch around 130 tons into Low Earth Orbit, so it would take 76,000 launches to get 10M tons of materials in orbit. This many launches is practically impossible, so any large scale space development would need to obtain materials from the moon or asteroids. And there's no evidence that any country is able to do so at this point.

There's really no way to hide a project of this size (large in terms of workers, cost, and physical scale).

  • Someone hasn't seen the film 2012. (I upvoted you.) – samthebrand Apr 18 '13 at 18:35
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    I upvoted this answer, but there is an ongoing discussion on how we should treat unfalsifiable claims. Good job on an attempted answer though! – Jamiec Apr 18 '13 at 19:26
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    Thanks for the pointer to the discussion, I lean toward answering even unfalsifiable claims even if the answer is just "It's highly unlikely because..." – Johnny Apr 18 '13 at 20:06

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