Medvedev: Roscosmos Needs Less Talk, More Action

RT reports that Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev sharply criticized Roscomos and its leader, Dmitry Rogozin, duiring a meeting earlier this week.

“We should stop the project-mongering, quit blabbing about where we’ll fly to in 2030, we should work, talk less and do more,” Medvedev said on Wednesday during a meeting with the top executives of the Russian state-owned space corporation Roscosmos.

The agency was also tasked with fixing its “financial discipline” within a month, and urged to use the Ministry of Defense’s experience in this area as an example. The construction of the Vostochniy Cosmodrome remains the main issue, as it’s been marred by corruption scandals and is well behind schedule. The ultimate goal is to make the Russian space industry financially viable and lucrative, as its “competitors” are already there, Medvedev stated.

The remarks appeared to personally targeted the director of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, who attended the gathering as well. The veteran politician became the chief of Roscosmos last May. Before that, he served as deputy prime minister, overseeing the defense and space industries.

Rogozin is well known for groundbreaking statements on ambitious projects that refer to the distant future. Last November, for example, he unveiled an ambitious plan to establish a permanent base on the moon, which will be staffed by a type of sophisticated “avatar robot.” Such a base is expected to go online in the early 2030s, according to Rogozin.

Rogozin Out as Overseer of Russian Defense & Space Sectors

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Dmitry Rogozin, the blunt talking Russian deputy prime minister who once suggested NASA use a trampoline to launch its astronauts to the International Space Station, has been dumped from the government as Vladimir Putin begins his fourth term as Russian president, according to media reports.

Rogozin, who has overseen the defense and space sectors since 2011, was not on a list of government officials submitted to the Duma for approval by Dmitry Medvedev, whom Putin has nominated to continue serving as prime minister.

Rogozin is being replaced as overseer of the defense and space sectors by Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov.

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Russia Approves Downsized 10-Year Space Budget

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

The cash-strapped Russian government has approved a 10-year spending plan for the federal space program that’s is only 40 percent of the original plan.

The program would allocate 1.4 trillion rubles ($20 billion) until 2025, with the possibility of providing an additional 115 billion rubles ($1.7 billion) after 2022, said Roscosmos Director General Igor Komarov.

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Putin, Skolkovo and the Fate of Russia’s Space Program

putin_vostochny3
I recent found a couple of interesting analytical pieces about the state of Russia’s struggling high tech sector and space program. Together, they paint a rather dismal picture of the prospects that Russia will be able to revive its once-proud space effort and break free of its economic reliance upon oil, gas, minerals and heavy metals.

In “The Short Life and Speedy Death of Russia’s Silicon Valley,” James Appell looks at the declining fortunes of Skolkovo, the Russian government’s $4 billion incubator outside Moscow that was designed to be the nation’s answer to America’s famous tech center. Then-President Dmitry Medvedev launched the ambitious effort in 2009 after visiting California as a way to diversify the Russian economy.

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Is Russian Space Industry Consolidation Creating a Black Hole?

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

A couple of stories in The Moscow Times provide some insight into the re-nationalization of Russia’s space industry.  One story claims the changes will create a giant black hole that will suck in billions of rubles while producing little of value. The other spotlights the firing of a prominent space analyst who dared oppose the changes.

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Private Russian Startups Pursue New Launcher, Space Tourism Vehicle

Two-stage Aldan rocket. (Credit: Lin Industrial)
Two-stage Aldan rocket. (Credit: Lin Industrial)

Even as Vladimir Putin and his merry band of bureaucrats and oligarchs are busy re-nationalizing the Russian space industry under the control of one fully-owned government company, there is some sign of independent entrepreneurial life within the nation’s space effort.

Start-up companies have sprouted up to launch satellites and to pursue small satellite launch vehicles and space tourism systems. All of these companies appear to be nurtured by a government created and run incubator called Skolkovo that is designed to be Russia’s answer to Silicon Valley.

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Russians Excelling at Killing Creatures in Space Lately

Foton M4 capsule after landing. (Credit: Roscosmos)
Foton M4 capsule after landing. (Credit: Roscosmos)

It can’t be easy being either a gecko or a deputy prime minister in Russia these days.

If you’re a gecko, the chances are that some idiot scientist is going to stick you in a capsule and launch you into space with a bunch of other geckos. They will stick a camera in there and film you having space sex.

If that’s not humiliating enough, the chances of you coming back alive from such a trip is roughly 50-50 because the engineering geniuses who designed the spacecraft don’t seem to know what the hell they’re doing.

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Angara Prepped for Launch in Second Quarter

angara_payload_fairing2
After nearly 20 years of development, Russians new Angara rocket is on track to make its inaugural flight sometime during the second quarter of this year. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev spoke confidently of the rocket’s future as he toured the Plesetsk Cosmodrome where the launch vehicle is being prepped for the mission.

“The rocket has been designed and produced entirely by domestic companies and uses environmentally-friendly propellants,” Medvedev said during a tour of Russia’s northern Plesetsk space center.

He noted that the Angara rocket was a great achievement for Russia’s aerospace industry, one that would secure access to space in the future for both government and civilian payloads….

The Angara is planned to launch from both Plesetsk and the new Vostochny space center in Russia’s Far East that is being built to reduce reliance on the Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

The modular launcher will have a variety of configurations to cover a wide range of payload weights, from two to 24.5 metric tons. They are currently served by several different rockets, including the Proton, Russia’s largest booster.

The Angara has been under development since 1995. Its maiden flight has been postponed many times due to delays in testing, production and the development of launch facilities at Plesetsk.

Rogozin Threatens Satellite Producers With Heavy Fines as Creation of New Space Corporation Advances

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin is on the warpath again, threatening to levy heavier penalties against space companies that failed to meet satellite production deadlines.

“We certainly need a completely different level of discipline and responsibility in this area,” he said after a government meeting on reform of the space industry, chaired by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Rogozin said the government would introduce stronger penalties for companies that did not manufacture and deliver spacecraft on schedule. He did not specify what the penalties would be.

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Rogozin: Russia to Consolidate Space Sector into Open Joint Stock Company

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

The Russian government plans to consolidate its space sector in an open joint stock company called the United Rocket and Space Corporation in a way that would preserve and enhance the Roscosmos space agency, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said.

In a recent Q&A with Kommersant, Russia’s space czar said President Vladimir Putin had approved the plan, which had been put forward by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, at a meeting on June 11.  Rogozin said the failure prone space sector is so troubled that it needs state supervision to overcome its problems.

Russia uses the open joint stock company structure in a number of key sectors, including airlines (Aeroflot), railroads (Russian Railways), and energy (Gazprom).  These companies are somewhat similar to limited liability partnerships and corporations in the United States.

Rogozin said he is awaiting a detailed proposal from Roscosmos on how to accomplish the transition. He added that the company would obtain a controlling interest in the Energia company. Currently, the government owns 38 percent of the rocket company.

Russia employs about 250,000 people in its space sector, while the United States has about 70,000 people working in the field, Rogozin said. Russian productivity is eight times lower than in America, with companies duplicating each others’ work and operating at about 40 percent efficiency.

Rogozin seemed to throw cold water on earlier reports that quoted him as saying the government planned to consolidate both space and aviation under one structure. The Google Translate version is a little unclear, but it appears that government wants to two sectors to work more closely together on joint projects where each side has expertise. He mentioned an air-launched rocket project and hypersonic missiles and aircraft as examples.

Editor’s Note:  A big shout out to Nickolai Belakovski for his help in clearing up uncertainties in the Google Translate text. Appreciate it.

Roscosmos Head Reprimanded for Failures

Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin. (Credit: Roscosmos)
Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Is Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin on the way out?

Russia media are reporting that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev officially reprimanded Popovkin for incompetence on Friday following a series of embarrassing launch failures.

The official reprimand essentially represents a warning to Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin that he faces the sack if he does not rectify the stated shortcomings in his work.

“The head of the federal space agency Vladimir Popovkin must be given a reprimand for improperly carrying out his professional duties,” said the document signed by Medvedev and released by the Russian government.

Popovkin took over Roscosmos in 2011 after his predecessor, Anatoly Perminov, was fired after a series of launch failures. The problems have persisted over the last two years. The most recent failure occurred on July 2 when a Proton rocket went out of control shortly after launch and crashed at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Russian Officials Not Keen on Turning Over Baikonur to Kazakhstan

It looks as if Kazakhstan could have a very long wait before it can take control of the Baikonur Cosmodrome and its adjoining city. A Kazakh proposal to gradually end the long-term lease that Russia holds on Baikonur is getting a chilly reception in Moscow.

“It will cause many issues, including social ones,” forecasts deputy head of the Russian State Duma’s commission on the CIS and compatriots Tatyana Moskalkova. She said that economic integration could assist in solving the problem. “If the EurAsian Economic Union were in place, those issues would not be that vital,” she explained.

Head of the State Duma’s commission Leonid Slutsky says the status question may be under discussion to the very end of the rent term between Russia and Kazakhstan, which is to 2050. “The format of the future joint exploitation is not in place, the terms are not clear,” he said. “Clearly, it (revision of the status)  is most likely to happen after expiration of the agreement, which is after 2050,” he said.

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Russia Space Sector Damaged by Focus on Quantity, Not Quality

Proton rocket

Jim Oberg penned a detailed account for Aerospace America of the problems affecting the Russian space program, which has seen a perilous decline in quality in recent years resulting in numerous launch failures.  It seems that at least part of the problem has resulted from an inspection process that has shifted from ensuring quality to increasing quantity.

“The current quality assurance system was created in Soviet times,” the source explained. “Quality is controlled at all stages of launch vehicle, upper-stage, and spacecraft production and assembly. It is the plant’s technical control department and military representatives, that is to say representatives of the armed forces in civilian organizations, that give the go-ahead for the finished, assembled product to be shipped to the spaceport.”

The difference today is that these former military inspectors are now paid by the civilian companies. So the greater the amount of hardware shipped, the better their relations with their management, and the bigger their bonuses will be. Thus they have become reluctant to make a fuss if a fault is found with a rocket or satellite. Instead, the source reported, “everything is settled internally.”

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Putin Dismisses Khrunichev General Director Amid Plans for Deeper Reforms

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Russian Ruler-for-Life Vladimir Putin has dismissed Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center General Director Vladimir Nesterov in the wake of last month’s failed launch of a Proton rocket, which stranded two communications satellites in useless orbits.

Russian media report that the Russian president accepted Nesterov’s resignation. Russia has experienced seven launch failures over the past two years, several of which can be tied to failures of Khrunichev produced upper stages.

Media reports said that Nesterov tendered his resignation a week after the Aug. 7 launch failure. However, a statement from Khrunichev said Nesterov remained on the job and could only be dismissed by Putin.

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Meanwhile, Back on Planet Putin….

Vladimir Putin (Credit: www.kremlin.ru)

Previously on Planet Putin…. Yet another rocket launch went awry, plunging the Russian space program back into a crisis from which it failed to emerge last year. The two Dmitrys sprang into action, promising to name and shame those responsible and to turn around the floundering space program once and for all.  Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave Roscomos a month to come up with a plan to fix things. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin vowed to personally oversee the establishment of a new quality control system. Heads began to roll as a high-level official resigned. Meanwhile, Ruler for Life Vladimir Putin maintained a steely silence.

And yet despite this frenzy of activity, matters have somehow become even murkier…

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