Russian Space Industry Reform Moves Forward

Igor Komarov (Credit: Russia Forum)
Igor Komarov (Credit: Russia Forum)

While Hercules has the Augean Stables to clean up, Igor Komarov’s task is only slightly less daunting: bringing order, coherence and profitability to a sprawling and bloated Russian space industry that saw its best days 30 years ago.

After four years as president of Russia’s largest car maker, AvtoVAZ, Komarov was brought in last year to head up the new United Rocket and Space Corporation (ACCD), a wholly-owned government entity that will consolidate virtually the entire space industry under state control.

When the consolidation is completed in about two years, ACCD will encompass 48 organizations and 14 companies. Among the major federal state unitary enterprises to be consolidated under the new corporation are Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, NPO Lavochkin and KB Arsenal Design Bureau.

ACCD will take over control of manufacturing facilities from Roscosmos, and oversee development, testing, maintenance and disposal of rocket and space technology. It will also be responsible for overseeing a unified technical policy for the Russian space industry.

The daily newspaper Kommersant published a detailed Q&A with Komarov on Monday. It’s only available in Russian, but thanks to Google Translate I’ve been able to extract some interesting excerpts, which I have summarized below. Komarov did discuss U.S. sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Ukraine. However, I did not attempt to summarize these points due to the imprecise nature of the translation.

On ACCD’s Schedule

ACCD will receives shares of open joint aerospace companies in August. Once that is accomplished, ACCD will be able to take all management decisions.

It will take longer to incorporate federal state unitary enterprises such as Khrunichev. The process of evaluating these companies, re-incorporating them and assesses their shares should be completed by the second half of 2015.

On the Overall State of the Industry

ACCD has not been able to do an audit of the various enterprises it will take over. However, it did collection information on their condition “with the help of specialized institutes.” The majority of the enterprises are in stable shape, although with low profitability. Upgrades are needed to execute Russia’s space program and the modernization of its defense industry.

On Fixing Quality Control Problems at Khrunichev (Producer of the accident-prone Proton rocket)

It’s going to take a while. Komarov said that the duration of the treatment of the disease is usually proportional to the time the patient has suffered the disease. (Proton failures began in December 2010.)  Khrunichev’s problems were long in coming, the result of a prolonged period of underfunding, declining wages and the loss of skilled personnel.

On RSC Energia

A plan is in place to increase the government’s share of the company from 38 percent to a controlling 51 percent. The reason is that since the state is providing most of the funding for Energia’s projects, it should control what goes on there.

Other than its troubled Sea Launch subsidiary, Energia does not have any major problems. However, Komarov wants to take a fresh look at its product line, with the possibility of new programs emerging in human spaceflight and the exploration of deep space.

On Sea Launch

Komarov wants to make a decision quickly on what to do with Energia’s troubled Sea Launch subsidiary, a commercial venture that has struggled with launch failures and financial losses. The longer the delay, the more the overhead costs add up. It’s not really clear from the interview which options are being considered.

On Satellite Systems

Komarov wants to increase the number of Russian satellites in orbit and use the data they return better. The ratio of remote sensing satellite capability and the use of their data for government and commercial needs is one of the worst in the world. He also wants to see more civilian use of Russia’s GLONASS geo-positioning system.