Putin Approves Roscosmos Reorganization as Officials Eye Export Sales to China

Roscosmos_logoRussian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law to consolidate the nation’s space industry under the control of a revamped Roscosmos as officials eye export sales to China as a way to offset budget cuts in the nation’s space program.

The law will combine the United Rocket and Space Corporation with Roscosmos, which will become a state corporation. The new company will be led by former auto industry executive Igor Komarov.

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

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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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Russia Roundup: Vostochny, Consolidation & Lunar Base

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

As another Russian space mission went haywire this week, there was plenty of other news about that nation’s struggle space program. Here’s a summary of major news from the past week.

VOSTOCHNY

  • Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that 58 million rubles (about $1 million) in back wages owed to Vostochny workers will be paid by April 30. Unhappy workers have gone on hunger strikes and appealed to President Vladimir Putin with a message written on the roofs of their dorms.

INDUSTRY CONSOLIDATION

  • Efforts to consolidate the Russian space industry under Roscomos continued. Putin submitted a draft law to the State Duma that would establish a space corporation on the basis of Roscosmos and the United Rocket and Space Corporation.

LONG RANGE PLANS

  • In a meeting with Chinese officials, Rogozin proposed that the two countries work together on a permanently crewed base on the moon. Russian is aiming to establish a lunar facility around 2030.

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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Roscosmos Merged With United Rocket & Space Corporation

Dmitry Medvedev meets with Igor Komarov. (Credit: Government of Russian Federation)
Dmitry Medvedev meets with Igor Komarov. (Credit: Government of Russian Federation)

The  Russian space agency Roscosmos is being merged with the United Rocket and Space Corporation, the government-owned company that is consolidating all of the nation’s space assets under its control. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin Tweeted:

The Government expects Roscosmos to put forward a draft law on creating a state corporation in the coming days http://t.co/U0RHdqg6Yg Putin supported Medvedev’s proposal to create a state corporation on the basis of Roscosmos and United Rocket and Space Corporation

He is, of course, referring to President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The Russian government has Tweeted a picture of Medvedev meeting with URSC Director General Igor Komarov, who is apparently now the head of Roscosmos. That means Oleg Ostapenko is out as Roscosmos chief.

The appears appears to be modeled on the Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, which consolidated Russia’s nuclear industry. It’s an interesting move given that the United States and Europe are looking to the private sector to be innovative and carry more of the burden in space.

Report: Angara-A5 Could Replace Zenit in Sea Launch

Inaugural Angara A5 launch (Credit: Khrunichev)
Inaugural Angara A5 launch (Credit: Khrunichev)

Here’s some more news about Sea Launch via TASS:

Russia’s new heavy-lift Angara-A5 rocket may replace the Ukrainian Zenit rocket in the Sea Launch project, a source in the space and rocket sector told TASS on Wednesday.

The announcement was made at the recent board of directors meeting of the RKK Energia space corporation. “The documents have already been submitted to the United Rocket and Space Corporation,” the source said.

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Year in Review: Launch Industry Disrupted in 2014

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SpaceX Founder Elon Musk has long talked about disrupting the launch industry with low prices and technological innovations. In 2014, the impacts of those efforts were felt far and wide as competitors responded to the threat the California company posed to their livelihoods.

ULA Pivots. With SpaceX reeling off one successful launch after another, ULA pivoted on several fronts. One was to announce efforts to significantly reduce costs on its highly reliable but pricey Atlas V and Delta IV boosters. But, even that proved to be insufficient as SpaceX threatened ULA on several fronts.

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Khrunichev Overhaul to Cost Mega Rubles

Holy shi'ski! The rocket...it go KABOOMSKI! (Credit: Tsenki TV)
A Khrunichev Poton booster launches a satellite into the ground at Baikonur Cosmodrome, (Credit: Tsenki TV)

So, just how bad off are things at accident prone Khrunichev? Try 30 billion rubes ($825 million) worth of bad off.

That’s how much Russian officials estimate it will cost to overhaul the venerable rocket producer, which has been responsible for a series of Proton launch failures over the past four years.

And that’s just a preliminary estimate. Who knows what else will crop up as officials delve deeper into the innards of the troubled company.

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Failure-Prone Khrunichev Gets New Acting Director General

Andrey Kalinovsky
Andrey Kalinovsky

MOSCOW, Aug. 7, 2014 (Khrunichev PR) —  Andrey Kalinovsky, the former First Vice President of Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company (SCAC) has been appointed acting director general of the Khrunichev State Space Research and Production Center (KhSC).

Andrey Kalinovsky succeeds Alexander Seliverstov, who served as the Director General of KhSC from October 2012 through August 2014.

Alexander Seliverstov will join  the United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC) later this month as vice president for space launch vehicle production.

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Embattled RSC Energia President Lopota Suspended from Post

Energia_logoEmbattled RSC Energia President Vitaly Lopota, who is the subject of a criminal investigation for alleged abuse of office, was suspended from his post on Friday by the company’s board of directors, ending a seven-year reign over the space company.

The move appears to be part of an effort by Russia’s government to obtain majority control over Energia, of which it owns a 38-percent share. The directors elected Igor Komarov as its new chairman of the board. Komarov is chief of the Russian United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC), the government-owned company tasked with consolidating Russia’s sprawling space sector.

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Putin’s Economic Vision: Centralize and Control Everything

Vladimir Putin inside of a full-size mockup of Russia's six-passenger "Rus" spacecraft. (Credit: RSC Energia)
Vladimir Putin inside of a full-size mockup of Russia’s six-passenger “Rus” spacecraft. (Credit: RSC Energia)

Bloomberg has an interesting report on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s economic strategy, which is characterized by the type of centralized government control that we’re now seeing imposed upon the space industry.

For all his vows to modernize and diversify the economy, though, Russia remains a nuclear-armed petrostate and Putin’s remedy for growth now is more, not less, government control.

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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.

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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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Russia 2013 Space Year in Review

Expedition 37 takes off for the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
Expedition 37 takes off for the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Russia once again led the world in orbital launches in 2013, keeping the International Space Station supplied with a study stream of crew members and cargo while earning hard currency with commercial satellite launches.

Although the vast majority of Russia’s launches were successful, the spectacular failure in July of a Proton rocket — which nosedived into the ground shortly after liftoff — accelerated efforts to reform the nation’s failure-prone space program. By the end of the year, the Russian space agency Roscosmos had a new leader and a major effort was underway to consolidate a large part of the bloated and inefficient space sector under a single government-owned company.

During 2013, Russia introduced a new variant of its venerable Soyuz rocket while also making progress on constructing a new spaceport in the Far East and developing a larger human spacecraft to replace the Soyuz transport and a heavy-lift booster to facilitate deep space exploration.

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Big Changes Ahead for the Russia Space Program in 2014

Another fine day for Russia's space program. A Proton crashes with three GLONASS satellites.
A Proton crashes with three GLONASS satellites.

For Roscosmos boss Vladimir Popovkin, the first half of 2013 was a welcome respite in an otherwise difficult tenure. A series of launch vehicles — 15 of them in all — lifted off flawlessly from the Baikonur and Plesetsk cosmodromes. All their payloads reached their intended orbits, exactly as planned. As summer dawned, it looked as though the Russian space program had finally put a string of embarrassing launch failures behind it.

Then came July. And everything changed.

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