Russian Deputy Prime Minister, the chairman of the Board for the Military-Industrial Complex, Dmitry Rogozin keeps construction of the Vostochny space center in the country’s Far East under personal control and he promises to have meetings with the co-chairman of the Russian-Chinese interstate commission not only at sessions of the latter. Rogozin spoke in an interview with TASS about complaints against the builders of the space center, new Russian-Chinese projects in aviation and space research, a new state armament program through to 2025 and talks with the US on building stations of the Russian global positioning system GLONASS in the US.
- A prosecutorial inquiry into the spending of budgetary funds for construction of the Vostochny space center and the causes for disruption of the schedule of works was ordered recently. What are the new terms for commissioning of the key facilities of the complex and has the problem with the schedule been eliminated?
- What you said contains two different questions. Number one, slipping behind schedule and how to eliminate it. This isn’t just a matter of the prosecutorial inspection. That’s a problem of a frugal treatment of spending, which concerns the customer of the project, the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) to a much greater degree. Problem number two concerns elimination of leaning towards the possible encroachments on legitimacy that may occur and, on top of that, the ones that have occurred in the past.
When I came to Vostochny for the first time, we were about twelve months behind the schedule because the project documentation was haywire and in some cases it just didn’t exist at all. Along with it, everyone mentioned the uniqueness of some installations, saying it was simply impossible to draft project documentation for them. This is the biggest loophole for corruption schemes.
One more problem that had brought about the slippage was the technologically incorrect computation of the time of completion of launch pad No. 1. The computation suggested that the construction teams were to round up their work in November 2015 and its commissioning for operations was to take place in December. But this is simply impossible because six months as a minimum is needed for testing all the equipment. And to be able to test it, you should bring it to the site, assemble it and get it ready for the first rocket launch. That’s why I demanded back in the summer of 2012 that completion of construction works be brought forward. I asked to finish them in June of July 2015 instead of November 2015. The fact also contributed to the slippage in some way but we were not falling behind time in this case, we were returning to the logic of the Presidential Decree on the launch of an unmanned ship from the Vostochny space center’s launch pad No. 1.
- And what are the main grudges against the builders?
- The main grudge is that, from our viewpoint, they are short of workforce to ensure the commissioning of all the phase-one facilities as scheduled. No doubt, we won’t agree with their smart tricks, with their proposals to establish the so-called ‘launch minimum’, which means to concentrate efforts on the facilities that are critical to the launch of the rocket, and to put the rest on a shelf. On our part, we believe everything included in the plan should be implemented in full.
- You visited Vostochny with a yet another inspection ten days ago? How big is the gap now?
- The most important task today is to begin supply of heating to all technological rooms on time so that we could unpack and assemble the equipment there. It’s important to keep up the pace of work in wintertime, too, to build up the volumes of output, and to bring the main works to the final phase by June.
As for the slippage, it remains practically unchanged – about one and a half months from one installation to another. I’m afraid I’ll have to go there quite often because big-shot visits always stimulate the progress of works. I plan to go there next time after November 20 and then closer to the New Year. That is, I’ll make trips to Vostochny practically every month and I’ll see to it that all construction works are normalized.
- What other measures are being taken to impart the necessary pace to construction works?
- To ensure that all of this is translated into life and works harmoniously, I took a decision to relocate there the main forces and knowledgeable people who have taken part in building large facilities of this kind in the past.
In the first place, we’re considering a full-scale inclusion of the Ministry of Construction Industry in the project. I’ve proposed to appoint Deputy Minister Leonid Stavitsky the principal official in charge of the Vostochny project on behalf of the ministry.
On the whole, we realize the complexity of this work. The Vostochny space center is being built in a region that is short of construction equipment because it’s located in the taiga, quite far away from population centers, and workforce is also scanty there. We realize this but the fact does not annul in any way the task set forth by the President.
- Will extra funds be allocated to speed the works up?
- No, we won’t go beyond the allocations that have been earmarked. It’s all in the budget already and we haven’t had any contradictions with the Finance Ministry so far.
- What’s the situation with the launch pad for the Angara rockets?
- That’s one more crucial task. All the documentation for works at launch pad No. 2, that is for Angara, must be drawn up briskly.
Besides, we’ll have to build an airdrome at Vostochny and a city with permanent housing instead of the service one, to ramify the infrastructure, and to put the technological compound in place.
In fact, construction of the Vostochny space center will continue further on and there’ll be a third phase aimed at a super-heavy-duty rocket, which the designers are still pondering. That’s a story to take a long, long time. The main thing now is to keep up fair pace and to ensure the launch of a space ship with the Lomonosov satellite from the Far East in December 2015.
- Is sequestering of the State Program for Armaments through to 2020, for which 20 trillion rubles has been earmarked, possible now?
- Considering the situation in the world, we can’t allow any sort of cuts in the armaments program now. President Putin stated this unambiguously on many occasions, and quite naturally numerous consultations have been held on the issue. That means that if we reschedule separate things beyond 2020, this will be done only due to the inability of the manufacturing sector to accomplish one or another task.
Considering the situation in the world, we can’t allow any sort of cuts in the armaments program now.
- And can there be cuts in the new program for the years 2016 through to 2025?
- We plan to hold the next session of the commission for defense manufacturing either at the beginning of next year or at the end of this year, with President Putin attending it. The session will consider financial and economic background, against which the new program will be drafted. At present, the Finance Ministry and Economic Development Ministry are expected to produce a maximally realistic forecast for the country’s economic development.
Proceeding from it and from the benchmarks it stipulates, we’ll be able to figure out the minimum possible volume of financing of the future program of armaments. But it will be comparable with financing of the current program anyway.
- How is the import independence program for our defense industry sector developing? What’s the amount of work and what are the time limits?
- The first stage of the import substitution plan has been adopted by the president, approved, and funds have been allocated for it, including for the current year. These measures are already taken on some facilities. I can’t name them to avoid attracting unnecessary attention. But in general, everything is proceeding according to plan.
The Defense Ministry as the key customer and the key interested party supervises the plan implementation. They compile reports on the plan weekly. So once in three months, the government receives information to what extent the plan is being implemented.
As regards the second stage, it is connected with the response to the sanctions announced by the West.
- That is, substitution of US and European imports?
- Quite right. Everything has been calculated here too, all figures match one another. By the end of October, all this should be submitted to the government. The military industrial sector board staff will thoroughly analyze the data, reduce them to a common denominator, after which the matter will be reported to the president and approved.
- Has the cost of the program been calculated as well?
- Can you name the figure?
- No, I can’t.
- You head the Russian part of the bilateral intergovernmental commission with China on trade-economic and scientific-technical cooperation. How is it developing?
- We have rather energetic relations with the People’s Republic of China, and Western countries should be thanked a lot for that. I am not even joking, because in a certain sense it broke some psychological barriers, which probably existed in someone’s head regarding cooperation with China.
We are now actively working in the space sphere, considering possible joint projects in space exploration.
In November, a delegation of (Russian space agency) Roscosmos and leading rocket and space industry enterprises is heading to the International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, where they will discuss specific projects with representatives of the Chinese industry. Then they will report to the governments of their countries.
Through (Russian state nuclear energy corporation) Rosatom, we are actively discussing the issue of expanding Russian participation on the market of China’s electric power industry, up to entering jointly the markets of third countries on some separate projects.
Regarding satellite navigation – Russia’s GLONASS and China’s Beidou – we have also agreed. I suggested to our Chinese colleagues the idea to unite the efforts of two systems. They liked the idea. The Russian system is more northern, we mainly cover the Northern Hemisphere. The Chinese in this sense are southerners. Combination is possible here: technical cooperation both in the orbit and on Earth in creation of chipsets that could be receivers of both Beidou and GLONASS signals. This will give additional characteristics in terms of a clear and precise signal, so we will no longer depend on our connection with GPS.
- How does joint work with China proceed to build a wide-body long-range aircraft and a heavy helicopter? Will the helicopter be the development of our Mi-26 project?
- Yes, in the field of aviation we have considerably moved forward on the road to create a heavy 38-ton helicopter. But it will not even be a deep upgrade of Mi-26, but in essence the Russian Federation’s technological contribution to the creation of a new helicopter with large-scale Chinese financing for the project. We are also interested in the machine.
Regarding the wide-body long-range aircraft, the situation is also moving. Its design project has been completed. We are now calculating what China’s demand for these planes is, what our domestic demand is.
The key question is for how long will we certify it and where? It will either be Russian certification, that is by the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC), or China will certify it at its place. We suggested China join the IAC and thus remove the problem connected with certification of both this plane and other aircraft specimens. This issue is being studied.
So, we have progress in many spheres with China. We are working with the Chinese side very closely and have agreed that we will hold co-chair-level meetings more often than commission meetings. In the beginning of the year, I am going to visit China to specify work on these strategically important projects.
- Back in May, the Russian side declared some sort of an “ultimatum” to the United States on deployment of GPS earth stations on the territory of the Russian Federation. By August 31, the American partners were to make a decision on similar deployment of GLONASS earth stations on their territory. How are the talks proceeding?
- There are no talks there. We made a relevant statement in spring. I proposed initiating talks with the United States on deployment of GLONASS infrastructure on its territory, and suspend GPS stations’ infrastructure on Russian territory while talks are ongoing.
In conditions of sanctions, the Americans did not agree on any talks. So the issue is senseless from the viewpoint of prospects, that’s why we took measures. They suit us well. We deprived GPS stations in Russia by technical means of the opportunity to be used for military purposes.
- How exactly technically did Russian specialists deprive the Americans of the opportunity to use GPS stations on our territory for military purposes?
- For obvious reasons, I won’t tell you how we did it, but we did that.
We don’t want to frostbite our ears to annoy our granny but we don’t want to deprive our users of the opportunity to work with GLONASS and GPS either. Why should we create fewer opportunities for our own population? But we completely destroyed any prospects, even indirect ones, for the use of the American navigation system for homing of precision weapons.
- How is preparation for the launch of the heavy Angara rocket from the Plesetsk space center going?
- According to reports by our military, Plesetsk has complete construction preparedness for the launch of Angara at the end of December. In line with the industry report, they also have complete preparedness of the rocket for the launch. There are no issues demanding interference of the Russian government. The matter is under the supervision of the Defense Ministry as the launching organization and the Khrunichev Center (Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center) as the manufacturer of the rocket.
- Will Angara be launched as planned – on December 25?
- Preliminarily, yes. But there is a weeklong window there. These are tests, so the launch will be made by technical readiness.
The interview was taken by Anastasiya Savinykh and Dmitry Reshetnikov