Roscosmos Chief: Western Power Might Be Wrecking Our Spacecraft

Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Good God. It’s come to this. The head of the Russian space program is now trafficking in conspiracy theories:

Doomed Martian probe Phobos-Grunt, which was due to fulfill a Russian mission on one of the Red Planet’s moons, might have been a target of external influence. The probe failed while flying over the western hemisphere, outside of Russia’s control.

In an interview to the Russian newspaper Izvestia, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Vladimir Popovkin, said that intended influence on the probe cannot be completely excluded.

”I do not want to blame anyone, but these days there are very powerful means to influence space vehicles,” he told the newspaper, adding that it is still unclear why the probe’s engine failed to start in the first place….

“We do not understand frequent failures of our space vehicles when they fly over the shadow, for Russia, part of the Earth,” Popovkin said. “Right there we are unable to see the vehicle and to receive its telemetry.”

Previously, reports emerged claiming that the probe station may have been influenced by powerful American radars in Alaska, which the vehicle was passing.

Evidence, please? Motives? Anything to back this up?

This is insulting. I can’t imagine Charlie Bolden, Jean-Jacques Dordain or the head of any major space agency saying anything like that. Or keeping their jobs if they did. Remarks like this indicate that the trust is gone. And space is too dangerous a place for that to happen.

We not only rely on the Russians for access to the space station, we’re inviting them in as full partners in future Mars exploration while they’re saying that we might have knocked out their own mission to the Red Planet.

Enough is enough. Congress should pass an emergency appropriation providing $400 million more for NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program so we can field a shuttle replacement as soon as possible. That would fund the program near the President’s request. Legislators should also give NASA whatever money it needs to pay for an Atlas V so we’re not dependent on the Russians to launch future Mars spacecraft.

  • Banner man

    Yeah, that explains it….

    This sort of nonsense is not going to help them improve on the QC issues,. It’s just a distraction to save their own bacon by pointing at the “enemy outside”

  • These comments are not just disturbing, they’re ridiculous. They show a management completely disconnected from reality. It’s upsetting to see a country that is so capable fail so horribly, and then defend themselves. Russia has accomplished unique things in space, which is not easy – you can’t half ass it, but the industry is struggling a lot, especially as shown by the recent security breach at NPO Energomash.

    It’s tough to work under their conditions. An entry level engineer’s salary is often less than $1000 per month (go to any Russian space company’s website and take a look at the careers page for yourself). And they work around Moscow, one of the most expensive cities in the world. It’s a sorry state, I hope they can somehow improve it soon, for everyone’s sake.

  • warshawski

    I think it much more likely to be poor quality and industrial hygiene, see the photos in the link–through-a-hole-in-the-fence-2012-1
    If this is an example of working conditions I am not supprised they have quality issues.
    On the CCDev funding unfortunately the next article says it all 375 mill for a MPCV test that Dragon has already done most of and if it was used for CCDev you could have a Dragon manned flight buy then instead.

  • Paul451

    Grandstanding Russian political leaders publicly threaten criminal charges against Roscosmos execs for Soyuz problems, is it really any wonder those same execs publicly float the idea that mysterious Western powers were behind Russia’s embarrassment, not themselves? In a country that has (post-cold war): assassinated unfriendly journalists and embarrassing defectors, poisoned a political leader in another country, drugged an angry grieving mother of a dead sailor to unconsciousness in full view of cameras, trumped up charges against media and energy company owners in order to confiscate their companies, etc etc…