Roscosmos Looks Back on its Life, Death and Rebirth in 2015

Roscosmos_logoMOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — 2015 – the year of the creation of the state corporation “Roscosmos”, the year of the completion of the first civilian spaceport Russia – Vostochny cosmodrome, the year of transition to the new space programs.

Ongoing systemic reform space industry (CSC) of Russia. Each enterprise, institution, organization RKO undergoing serious structural changes. And already the first results – companies developing and producing launch vehicles and spacecraft, carrying out maintenance of ground infrastructure, training of cosmonauts and astronauts become more efficient and sustainable.

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Putin Demands Massive Government Space Agency Stay Competitive

Vladimir Putin inspects construction at Vostochny. (Credit:  Presidential Press and Information Office)
Vladimir Putin inspects construction at Vostochny. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that his nation’s bloated space sector remain competitive with the West as the entire industry is consolidated under the control of the government-owned Roscosmos space agency.

“Special attention needs to be directed in the course of [new space] programs at strengthening our positions in the spheres of manned spaceflight and in orbiting cargo, primarily in commercial launches,” Putin said at a meeting of space industry officials in Sochi on Thursday.
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First Launch from Vostochny Delayed Until Spring

Soyuz launch complex at Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)
Soyuz launch complex at Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Vladimir for Life Putin visited Russia’s delay- and scandal-plagued  Vostochny spaceport on Wednesday and officially threw in the towel on the effort to launch a rocket from the Far East cosmodrome by the end of the year.

“We do not need any drumbeating reports, we need high-quality results,” Putin said. “So let us agree: you finish the work related to water supply and wastewater disposal. It is necessary to prepare spaceships for launches. And be ready to carry out the first launches in 2016, somewhere in the spring.”

“If you do that before Cosmonautics Day, that will be fine,” the president added.

The project, designed to lessen Russian dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, has been troubled by lengthy delays and embezzlement scandals. Workers have complained about not being paid for months while executives from some companies have been arrested for alleged graft.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin ha threatened to tear the heads off anyone delaying the program. No reports yet on whether he has carried out any of these threats.

Prosecutors Find a Whole Lot of Thieving Going on at Vostochny

Vladimir Putin reviews a map showing the plan for the Vostochny spaceport. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)
Vladimir Putin reviews a map showing the plan for the Vostochny spaceport. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)

It’s been no secret that Russia’s $3 billion Vostochny spaceport has experienced its fair share of corruption, what with alleged embezzler having been captured in Balarus driving around a diamond-encrusted Mercedes and working going unpaid for months at a time.

Earlier this week, Russia’s Prosecutor General revealed the true extent of the theft uncovered thus far: a whopping 7.5 billion rubles ($126 million) has been stolen. That’s 4.2 percent of the $3 billion being spent on the new spaceport in Russia’s Far East.

Officials are hoping to complete work on the new facility by the end of November, with the first launched scheduled the following month.

Roscosmos Reaches Milestone in Soyuz Launch Complex Construction

Soyuz launch complex at Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)
Soyuz launch complex at Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The experts of Roscosmos’s contractor organizations have finished the assembly of Soyuz-2 carrier rocket launch system at Vostochny cosmodrome one month ahead of the schedule and performed the first commissioning.

In particular, they have checked the operability of the electrohydraulic equipment and metal constructions, the sensors and the terminal switches have been set up. The supporting service towers of the top chord, holding the carrier rocket before the launch, have been brought together and folded back for the first time.

The object’s commissioning was performed by the launch system developer, FSUE TsENKI division NIISK, electric equipment developer FSUE TsENKI division TsENKI North-West, hydraulic equipment developer Sigal research institute (Kovrov city), TsENKI-North, representatives of the Tyazhmash launch system manufacturer, ST-1 assembly organization, and FSUE TsENKI division NIISK operation department. The tests were carried out successfully and without irregularities.

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Baikonur Hits 60 Amid Uncertainty Over its Future

Soyuz TMA-16M lifts off. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Soyuz TMA-16M lifts off. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Sixty years ago on June 2, 1955, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) issued a directive approval the organizational and staff structure of Research Test Site No 5. And with that momentous document, the famed Baikonur Cosmodrome was born.

The spaceport has seen its fair share of historic events: the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, in 1957; the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961; the first space station, Salyut 1, ten years later. Baikonur continues to hold the record for the most number of launches conducted annually. And it remains the only launch site for astronauts traveling to the International Space Station.

But, the venerable spaceport also has seen better days. The breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 left Baikonur in the newly independent nation of Kazakhstan. Russia had to sign a long-term lease on the facility in order to launch its rockets from the facility. Russia’s space industry went into long-term decline as a lack of money damaged the space program and deterred a generation of young engineers from working in the field.

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Alleged Vostochny Embezzler Captured Driving Extremely Expensive Car

Construction at Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)
Construction at Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

So much for keeping a low profile.

Balarus security forces captured a man accused of embezzling 4 million rubles ($75,000) from Russia’s Vostochny spaceport project as he was driving his diamond-encrusted Mercedes. Officials have not named the man, who is described as a 45-year old Georgian national.

Police in the Amur region put the shamed director on the international wanted list and he was located in Minsk, where he drove a luxury Mercedes car decorated with Swarovski diamonds. According to local media, it cost $300,000 (16 million roubles) to have the vehicle covered.

It was inside this car that he was detained by Belarus Special Forces on Monday, with the arrest recorded by officers and then distributed on the Internet.

In the recording it is clear that the director promises to give all the money back within a week. He will now be sent to Russia where police will continue their investigation.

Read all about it here.

Roscosmos Wants to Speed Up Transition From Proton to Angara

FAILI! A Proton takes a nose dive at Baikonur. (Credit: Tsenki TV)
FAILI! A Proton takes a nose dive at Baikonur. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

The head of the Russian space agency, Igor Komarov, wants to speed up the replacement of the trouble-plagued Proton launch vehicle with new Angara rockets, TASS reports.

‘It is necessary to expedite the transition of launches from Protons to the Angara rocket,” he said at a meeting held by Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin in the Siberian city of Omsk.

Vice-Premier Rogozin said last week Russia should switch to digital designing in the space rocket industry, gradually giving up Proton boosters and opting for other models, like the Angara rocket.

“Generally, our conclusion is also related to the need to switch exclusively to digital designing and modelling of this sort of situations and, of course, it is necessary to expedite the transition to modern carrier rockets like the Angara, gradually giving up the Protons,” Rogozin said.

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Russian Audit Committee Finds Mind Boggling Financial Violations at Roscosmos

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

More bad news for Russia’s struggling space program:

Russia’s Audit Chamber has discovered $1.8 billion of financial violations in the Roscosmos space agency. According to Chamber head Tatyana Golikova, this included accounting violations, misuse of budget funds and inefficient spending on construction.

“At first I didn’t believe the inspectors,” Golikova said, Interfax reported.

The Audit Chamber has observed a sharp rise in violations at Roscosmos since last year, she said. “It was an absolute surprise for me. I conducted a budget inspection last year, and now in 2014, the number of violations has grown sharply.”

Earlier, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin blamed corruption in the space industry for the recent high accident rate of Russian spacecraft. Speaking in the State Duma on Tuesday, he said Roscosmos’ partner, the state company producing Proton rockets, is facing eight criminal cases.

One of the projects apparently seething with violations is the new Vostochny (Eastern) Cosmodrome. According to Golikova, its construction saw an overspending of about 13 billion rubles ($260 million). She says this resulted from overpricing and use of fraud schemes. The numbers are being looked into by the Russian Investigative Committee.

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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.

Vostochny Project Becoming Increasingly Farcical

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

Russia’s multi-billion dollar Vostochny spaceport project has now gone from absurd to farcical.

On the heels of a hunger strike by unpaid workers comes word of another group of more than 500 people who say they haven’t been paid for four months.

The workers have sent a personal appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In very large letters. On the roofs of their workers barracks.

No, I’m not kidding. This comes directly from the you can’t make s— like this up file. Click the link and take a look at the photos.

I think they sent the appeal to the right place. Putin presides over a mafia state where theft and corruption runs rampant. He and his cronies have greatly benefited from it. But, when he actually needs to get something done, his ambitions are hamstrung by the very system he has put into place.

This latest embarrassment will undoubtedly be followed by more firings of those responsible by Putin’s military industrial complex czar, Dmitry Rogozin, who has direct control over the Vostochny project. The question is whether or not Rogozin should be fired for presiding over this sorry mess.

Vostochny Workers Go on Hunger Strike Over Back Wages

Vladimir Putin reviews a map showing the plan for the Vostochny spaceport. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)
Vladimir Putin reviews a map showing the plan for the Vostochny spaceport. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)

Pity the poor workers at Vostochny.

They’re out there in the Russian Far East, in the middle of nowhere, trying to construct a massive new spaceport and an entire city to support it. There’s not enough people to do the work, the winter weather is horrible, and their employers have allegedly embezzled money while falling months behind on wage payments.

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin has decreed the first launch will take place from the new spaceport in December no matter. Deputy Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin — a great admirer of Josef Stalin — monitors the work via webcam in between regular visits. He recently threatened the rip the heads off anyone who steals funds or slows the project down.

Pressure? Oh, no pressure. What makes you say that?

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Rogozin Fires Another Vostochny Construction Head

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was back at the Vostochny spaceport last week to see how well his latest motivational tactic was working. Apparently, not very well.

A week and a half prior to his latest inspection tour, Rogozin had promised to rip the heads off anybody who was slowing down work on the cosmodrome. President Vladimir Putin had decreed the new spaceport will be ready for its first launch in December.

That approach apparently didn’t have the desired effect. During his visit last Tuesday, Rogozin fired Dmitry Savin, head of the main contractor, Dalspetsstroi. He reportedly left with his head intact and will continue to work for Dalspetsstroi.

This was the second firing of a Dalspetsstroi head in less than six months. Savin’s predecessor, Yury Khrizman, was arrested last October for allegedly embezzling 1.8 billion rubles ($30 million).

Lucky Russian Students Spend Winter in Balmy Vostochny

Vladimir Putin reviews a map showing the plan for the Vostochny spaceport. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)
Vladimir Putin reviews a map showing the plan for the Vostochny spaceport. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)

RussianSpaceWeb.com says 200 lucky students had a chance to spend their winter break in Russia’s frigid Far East, where they are taking a course in Screwed Up Construction Projects 101.

In an unusual step, the Russian government organized 200-strong “winter student brigade” to provide low-skilled labor in Vostochny beginning on February 1, even though normally such groups would only be available during summer. Official press releases did not elaborate whether members of the brigade would have to skip a semester. As many as 1,200 students were promised in Vostochny during the summer of 2015, Roskosmos 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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