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Chief Designer takes blame for space emergency

August 16, 2012, 14:20 UTC+3
1 pages in this article

Director General and Chief Designer of the Khrunichev State Space Research and Production Centre Vladimir Nesterov on Wednesday took the blame for the recent space launch failure and tendered resignation. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s statement about the intention to make a personnel decision in connection with the space industry failures was the reason for this move.

Vladimir Nesterov did not wait until the “scapegoat” is found – his nerves snapped, writes the Komsomlskaya Pravda daily. Generally, from the very start - as soon as it became known that the telecommunications satellites Express MD-2 and Telcom 3 were lost on August 6, talk started that Nesterov would not keep his post. The spacecraft missed the target orbit because of a contingency with the work of the Briz-M upper stage, designed by the Khrunichev Centre. And this is not the first problem with this unit. The Briz-M upper stage had earlier twice failed to place satellites into the target orbit - in 2008 and 2011.

It should be noted that since the appointment to the senior position at the Khrunichev Centre Nesterov has managed to raise productivity in the industry – the increase in the number of launches up to 12 Proton rockets per year has greatly increased revenue, Kommersant writes. Thus, in 2011 it amounted to 43 billion roubles. And commercial launches have given 777 million US dollars of proceeds. In general, according to the publication’s sources in the industry, Vladimir Nesterov “has virtually recreated the centre and almost perfectly organised its work.” Under his leadership the project of the Angara carrier rocket, although not at an amazing pace, yet really began to advance in terms of the assembly and launch preparations.

“Certainly, sending in his resignation, the head of the space centre assumed responsibility” for the failures, editor-in-chief of the industry journal Novosti Kosmonavtiki (News of Cosmonautics) Igor Marinin believes. “He has done all he could for the industry. Now he has decided to give place to the young who will be able to develop the industry more intensively.”

Novye Izvestia recalls that Russia has been haunted by space launch failures over the past year. Last December, the launch of the dual-use Meridian satellite ended in a failure. A little earlier - in November – Russia’s most expensive space project of recent years - the Phobos-Grunt interplanetary station failed its mission. On Thursday, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) Anatoly Popovkin will hold a meeting at which he will hear a report by members of the interdepartmental commission on the results of the investigation of the Proton-M rocket abortive launch.

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