Popovkin: Search for Launch Failure not a “Witch Hunt”

Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin. (Credit: Roscosmos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — On August 7 at the Federal Space Agency, V.A. Popovkin led a meeting of the Interagency Commission (IAC) to analyze the causes of abnormal start-up carrier rocket “Proton-M” with the upper block (RB), “the Briz-M” and the spacecraft “Express MD2 “and” Telkom-3 ‘, held on the eve of the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

On the first day of the members of the ERM conducted a snapshot of the received telemetry data, from which you can draw a preliminary conclusion about the normal functioning of the management system booster “Briz-M”. It is also noted that the RB engine came out to the nominal thrust, resulting in automatic shutdown to happen.

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Global Space Exploration Conference Set for Late May in DC

Reston, Va. (AIAA PR) – The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), in coordination with the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), is pleased to announce the initial program for the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX) to take place May 22–24, 2012 at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, 480 L’Enfant Plaza Southwest, Washington, D.C.

The opening day of the event will feature a “Heads of Space Agencies Global Space Exploration Dialog.” Moderated by AIAA Executive Director Bob Dickman, it will bring together Charles Bolden, administrator, NASA; Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general, European Space Agency; Steve MacLean, president, Canadian Space Agency; Vladimir Alexandrovich Popovkin, head, Russian Federal Space Agency; and Chen Qiufa, administrator, China National Space Administration, for a candid discussion on the future of space exploration initiatives in the global community. Dr. Keiji Tachikawa, president, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Dr. K. Radhakrishnan, chairman, Indian Space Research Organization, have also been invited.

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Russia’s Ambitious Space Plan Overshadowed by Controversies

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Pity the poor Russian space agency, Roscosmos.  After more than a year of launch accidents, harsh criticism from the nation’s rulers, a change in leadership at the top, and the appointment of a high-level czar to clean up the mess at the failure-prone space agency, word leaked out recently of a long-range plan for the nation’s space effort that would land cosmonauts on the moon and accomplish many other cool space activities.

This would normally be a positive sign that officials could point to as evidence of a space agency turning itself around. Unfortunately, the leak occurred amid a series of very public disputes and embarrassments that have overshadowed everything else. The problems have included a dismal response to a cosmonaut recruitment effort, an alleged brawl between two of Russia’s top space officials over a smoking hot model/business escort turned personal press secretary who seems ill suited for her job, a call for Roscosmos’ leader to step down, and a demand by the deputy prime minister for everyone to shut the frak up.

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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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Russian Space Chief Hospitalized

Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin. (Credit: Roscosmos)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin landed in the hospital this weekend, although the exact reason is unclear.

Russian news agency quoted the space agency’s press office as saying the 54-year-old general was suffering from “physical and emotional exhaustion.” A spokesman later confirmed the hospitalization to the Associated Press without elaboration.

A Russian tabloid, Life News, posted a picture of Popovkin with his head bandaged and reported that he was drunk at the time he was admitted to the hospital.

Popovkin took over the struggling space agency last year amid a series of rocket failures that have continued during his tenure.

Roscosmos Board Meets, Lays Out Future Space Plans

On March 6 the Federal Space Agency held a board meeting under the direction of the head of Russian Space Agency, V.A. Popovkin.

Agenda of the meeting included the questions:

  1. The results of space activities in 2011, the task of the Federal Space Agency in 2012.
  2. Consideration of the materials of the project “Development Strategy of the Russian space industry for the period up to 2030”

The meeting was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, the representatives of the Russian Presidential Administration and the Russian Government, ministries and agencies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a number of universities, heads of enterprises of the Russian space industry.

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Russia Blames Radiation for Loss of Phobos-Grunt Spacecraft

Phobos-Grunt in preparation. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Roscosmos says that radiation in low Earth orbit fried Phobos-Grunt’s computer, an explanation that not everyone is buying:

“The most likely reason, in the opinion of the commission, was the local impact of heavily charged space particles that led to a failure in the memory of the main onboard computer in the second stage of flight,” [Roscosmos Head Vladimir] Popovkin told Russian news agencies in Voronezh, a town 450 km (280 miles) south of Moscow.

A burst of space radiation caused the onboard computers to reboot and go into standby mode, he said.

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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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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….

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New Russian Space Czar Hits Ground Running

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

Hardline Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, the Kremlin’s new defense and space czar, has hit the ground running this week as he attempts to turn around Russia’s failure-prone space sector.

Rogozin has ordered Roscosmos to produce a report analyzing its recent string of launch failures and to develop a master plan through 2030. The space czar also announced the creation a personnel reserve to deal with a shortage of space workers, and he warned trespassing bloggers to stay off the nation’s strategic space installations — or else.

[UPDATE: View the photos of the bloggers’ nocturnal visits to Energomash here.]

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Russia Reprioritizes Space Program

Last week, Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin laid out his plan to shift the focus of Russia’s space program away from human spaceflight toward a more balanced effort that also emphasized Earth observation, communications and planetary exploration. The moves also included tightening state control over a key Russian rocket builder.

The most dramatic move is the cancellation of Russia’s large Rus-M rocket, which Energia was building to replace the venerable Soyuz booster. Rus-M was intended to carry the nation’s new six-person crew vehicle from the Vostochny spaceport. However, the effort was widely rumored to be running badly behind schedule and unlikely  to meet deadlines of an initial test flight in 2015 and human flights in 2018.

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Roscosmos to Restructure Khrunichev, Replace Management

The reorganization of the Russian space industry continued on Friday as Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin announced plans to create of a new rocket building holding organization and to replace the management of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center.

Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin announced the plan in remarks before the State Duma, according to Interfax. The report doesn’t say why the move is being made, but it appears to be an attempt by the Russian space agency to tighten control over the industry.

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Russia’s Solution to Roscosmos Problem: Militarize It?

As engineers continue their investigation of the Soyuz launch failure (a malfunctioning gas generator is to blame) and rejigger their launch schedule, a far more important question is being debated: what to do about the suddenly bumbling Russian space agency, Roscosmos.

One possible answer emerged this week: re-militarize it.

The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said on Wednesday it is considering returning the federal space program to the framework of the state defense order to ensure steady financing and reduce the number of accidents with space launches.

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Popovkin: Soyuz, Angara Launches on Track

Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin held a press conference during the Paris Air Show earlier this week. The Russian space agency’s new leader provided updates on a number of key programs, including Soyuz, Angara, Rockot and GLONASS. A summary of his remarks via Roscosmos PAO follows.

The maiden launch of Soyuz-ST from Guiana Space Center was slated for Oct. 20, pending readiness of payload Galileo satellites. The Russian rocket is totally ready for the mission.

The first test launch of Soyuz-1 rocket is to occur from Plesetsk, Northern Russia, in early 2012. This launch is pending completion of the rocket’s firing tests, as well as readiness of the payload Lomovosov satellite to be provided by Moscow State University by 2012.

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Meet the New Boss: Roscosmos Chief Vladimir Popovkin

New Roscosmos Head Vladmir Popovkin is a career military officer who began working as an engineer at the Baikonur Cosmodrome and eventually rose to become Commander of the Space Forces. Last month, the 53-year old retired general recently replaced Anatoly Perminov as the chief Russia’s space program.

Official Biography (via Roscosmos)

Vladimir Popovkin was born on September 25, 1957, in the city of Dushanbeh, Tadzhikskaya Republic of the Soviet Union.

In 1979, he graduated from A.F.Mozhaisky Military Academy, Moscow.

Since then he served at Baikonur cosmodrome, occupying various positions from division’s engineer to the command chief of Launch Pad 1 (Gagarin’s Launch Pad).

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