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Dmitry Medvedev discusses aerospace industry problems

August 15, 2012, 11:00 UTC+3
The premier did not name the persons responsible for the latest failed attempt to launch a Proton-M booster rocket with two telecommunication satellites on board
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MOSCOW, August 15 (Itar-Tass) — Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev discussed at a conference on Tuesday the problems in Russia's aerospace industry. The premier gave a month to work through the issues of the functioning of the Federal Aerospace Agency /Roskosmos/ and tighten product quality control. However, the premier did not name the persons responsible for the latest failed attempt to launch a Proton-M booster rocket with two telecommunication satellites on board.

At the Tuesday conference, Dmitry Medvedev was finding out why "accidents during the launches of spacecraft happen with "enviable consistency," the Kommersant writes. He noted that "Russia has a very significant potential in space exploration," yet failures in aerospace "weaken the prestige of a leading space-faring country." This situation is developing despite "the increasingly larger funds invested in the aerospace industry. For example, this branch is due to receive some 650 billion roubles in the period from 2012 through 2015.

The prime minister noted that there had been seven unsuccessful launches in the past 18 months, in which ten satellites had been lost. On August 7, a Proton booster failed to bring to the intended orbit two telecommunications satellites /Express MD2 and Teljkom-3/. The launch failed because of malfunction in the fuel system of the cruise propulsion unit.

Medvedev offered to determine who is to blame and the measure of responsibility for them. According to the newspaper's government source, Roskosmos director general Vladimir Popovkin partially admitted blame during the conference. At the same time, he maintained that there were objective causes of the failures, such a lack of skilled personnel, insufficient stimuli for young people to work in the industry and a lack of modern means of control over the assembly of certain nodes and components.

The premier promised to make "part of decisions" "related" to the recent failed launches immediately after the conference, but no reshuffles had been announced either at Roskosmos or in the industry by the end of the day. According to Kommersant's Kremlin sources, the decision on punishment or dismissals might be made after Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin discussed the aerospace industry situation.

The Moskovsky Komsomolets noted that the persons responsible for the failed launch had not been named. In the newspaper's opinion, Vladimir Popovkin will not be named among the culprits. Dmitry Medvedev instructed him to report the measures to be taken towards enhancing the quality of work of the aerospace industry. The government is to work through the issue of product quality at aerospace companies within a month. However, while issuing the instruction, Medvedev made it clear that the solution of the problem was not a matter of several months or several resignations.

Russia’s incessant aerospace failures have become a serious political and economic problem, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes, "Yesterday's analysis of space launches at premier Medvedev's showed that the government had no clear anti-crisis program for the rocket industry, therefore officials will probably limit the remedy to reshuffles."

Among the causes behind the degradation of domestic space exploration, the officials name various factors. For example, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin pointed out at an unsuitable age of company directors. "As long as the youngest director of a Roskosmos affiliate is 62, we can only dream of Mars probes while Foboses will keep falling to the ground," Rogozin wrote on Twitter. There are other factors however, such as low wages of engineers, thefts and fraud at companies, insufficient state funding, a lack of independent control and technological discipline, etc. Russia's space exploration found itself in a crisis not because of technological glitches, but due to the inability of companies and government officials to ensure proper control of reliability and work discipline in the whole sector.

The reasons behind the crisis are not shortages of funds and reshuffles. You might invest another 20 trillion roubles into companies, you might replace their directors, but such moves will change anything in the sector," Buran test pilot Magomed Tolbyev told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He sees the cause behind the failed launches in the dismantling of the management vertical in the sector. There is no vertical of management, no responsibility and discipline. Who can we resolve the problem of reliability with? We have no minister, general designer or chief engineers, whose solutions could dramatically change the situation," the test pilot said.

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