Khrunichev Director General Resigns Following Launch Failure

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Vladimir Nesterov, director general of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, has resigned following the failure of a Proton rocket to place two communications satellites in their proper orbits last week, Russian media sources report.

Nesterov resigned on Wednesday, a day after President Dmitry Medvedev held a meeting to reprimand Russian space officials over the latest launch failure. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin also severely criticized the Khrunichev boss on Monday.

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Medvedev to Shame Those Responsible for Launch Failure

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (Credit: www.kremlin.ru)

RIA Novosti has the latest on the Russian Proton failure:

Medvedev to Name & Shame Failed Satellite Launch Officials

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday he will name officials responsible for Monday’s failed satellite launch next week.

“I would like to hold a meeting on this next week. It will be prepared by the appropriate deputy prime minister and structures. They are tasked with reporting who should be punished and what to do next,” Medvedev told a government meeting in Moscow.

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Crash of the Titans

A Titan rocket explodes just after liftoff. (Credit: USAF)
A Titan rocket explodes just after liftoff. (Credit: USAF)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Incompetence. Corruption. An aging workforce. Few replacement workers. Low salaries. Rising costs. Abysmal morale. Declining quality. A lack of accountability. Zero transparency. And an extremely pissed off political leadership.

Russia’s space program has got ’em all. If there was ever a perfect storm for a government bureaucracy, Roscosmos is right smack in the middle of it following the failure of yet another Proton rocket on Monday. Its Breeze-M upper stage stranded two satellites in a useless orbit, once again shining a harsh spotlight on the increasingly decrepit state of that nation’s once mighty program.

Once again, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is calling a meeting amid a “crisis” atmosphere to demand answers, just like he did back in 2011 while holding Vladimir Putin’s presidential seat warm. At that time, a whole series of launch mishaps led to the firing of Roscosmos’ leader and the appointment of hard-line Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin as a special space and defense czar.

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Russia to Create Own “DARPASKI”

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

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

As I first reported back in February,  Russia is moving forward with the development of its own DARPA. Ruler-for-Life Vladimir Putin has sent a bill to the Duma to establish the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the Defense Industry, which Wired has dubbed DARPASKI.

The establishment of the foundation will be overseen by hardline Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, whom Putin appointed last December as defense czar with the goal of cleaning up the corruption-prone defense and error-prone space sectors.

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Roscosmos Drama: The General, the Model and the Bottle

Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin (right) and his press secretary, fomer model Anna Vedischeva.

Can Popovich Hang onto Job After Alleged Fight Over Model?

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

The curious case of Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin — hospitalized recently after suffering a head injury — has taken another strange turn, this one involving an alleged brawl over a sultry model turned personal press secretary.

As you might recall, Roscosmos said Popovkin was hospitalized last week for  “physical and emotional exhaustion” as a result of a brutal schedule that included frequent international travel on behalf of the struggling Russian space program he was brought in to save last April. But, that story didn’t hold for very long.

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Is Graft Causing Russian Spacecraft to Fail?

Phobos-Grunt -- coming soon to a continent and/or ocean near you. (Credit: Ralph Vandeberg -- used by permission)

While Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin floats conspiracy theories about foreign weapons taking out Russian spacecraft, his nation has set a new, all-time record for the embezzlement of government funds:

Since 2008 the sums embezzled have grown sevenfold: while back in 2008 the figure was 96.6 billion rubles ($3.2 billion), it is now 718.5 billion rubles ($22.7 billion).

More than 50 per cent of the missing money was wasted on Budget Code violations, with another 35 per cent on violations in state procurements. The underlying reason behind those wastes, the Accounts Chamber head said, is bureaucracy as each governmental order goes through hundreds if legal bodies, which breeds corruption. The functions each legal body performs are often unclear…

However, research published in July 2011 revealed that the average bribe in Russia has increased almost sevenfold – to a whopping $10,000.

So, how is all this graft affecting the Russian space program? Damned good question.

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Program Delays Don’t Just Affect Roscosmos

Anatoly Perminov...in happier times

A couple of weeks ago, Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov lost his job after two high-profile launch failures and various programmatic delays. One of the more serious charges leveled against Perminov was that the space agency hadfallen behind badly on the production of spacecraft, failing to meet schedules last year.

Well, it looks Roscosmos’ shortcomings are part of a much broader set of problems affecting the entire Russian defense industry.  On Tuesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev chaired a meeting with the leaders of the Russian defense sector – including new Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin — in which he sharply criticized them for delays in implementing key programs that are part of a broad effort to modernize and improve the nation’s defenses.

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Russians Honor Space Heroes on 50th Anniversary of Gagarin’s Flight

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. (Credit: Russian government)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev awarded state decorations to cosmonauts, employees and veterans at a ceremony in Moscow to mark the 50th anniversary of the first human spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin.

The ceremony was attended by Yury Gagarin’s widow Valentina Gagarina and his two daughters, as well as several members of the first group of cosmonauts, including the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova. U.S. space station commander Scott Kelly and former astronaut Tom Stafford, who commanded the U.S. side of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, received the Medal for Merits in Space Exploration from the Russian president.

A transcript of Medvedev’s remarks and additional photos follow.

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Medvedev Signs Russia-Ukraine Space Cooperation Agreement

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (Credit: www.kremlin.ru)

President of Russia PAO — Dmitry Medvedev signed the Federal Law On Ratification of the Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on the Protection of Technology in Connection with Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses and Research of Outer Space and in Building and Operating Rockets and Rocket and Space Technology.

The purpose of the agreement is to ensure the conditions required for developing cooperation with Ukraine in the space and rocket industries in accordance with the need to ensure legal and physical protection of controlled goods and related technology destined for export on the importer country’s territory, including prevention of unauthorized transfer of the said goods and technology or their use for other purposes by foreign end users.

The agreement was concluded in Moscow on June 11, 2009.

Medvedev Wants Vigorous Deep Space Exploration Program, But Where Are the Rubles?

Russia should have its own deep space program – Medvedev
Itar-Tass

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev believes that Russia should develop its own program for the exploration of deep space in general and the Moon in particular. “I think this is a very important topic, even in terms of our scientific ambitions. If we fail to address it at all, we shall degrade and will be pushed to the sidelines,” the president said at a meeting with young scientists on Tuesday.

Medvedev admitted that he could not promise such a program would be ready in one year’s time, “which would let us catch up with the Americans.”

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Medvedev Fires Roscosmos, Energia Officials Over Proton Failure

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev fired RSC Energia’s vice president Vyacheslav Filin and Roskosmos Deputy Head Victor Remishevsky over the Dec. 5 failure of a Proton rocket, which sent three expensive GLONASS navigation satellites to the bottom of the Pacific. The Russian leader also reprimanded Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov.

The failure resulted from the fourth stage transfer module being overloaded with fuel, causing the first three stages to under perform. The failure was deeply embarrassing to the Russian government because the three satellites would have completed the 24-satellite GLONASS constellation, allowing it to provide full global coverage for the first time. GLONASS is the Russian equivalent of the American Global Positioning System (GPS).

The Russian government has been eager to recover its Soviet-era space prowess and to prove that it can equal the technological achievements of the United States and other Western powers. Officials are making a major push to install receivers on buses, cars and other vehicles both domestically and aboard. The government is working with India and a number of countries that formed the former Soviet Union to install receivers there.

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