Rogozin Lashes Out at Roscosmos, Popovkin Reprimanded

Rogozin Lashes Out at Roscosmos, Popovkin Reprimanded

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin lashed out at Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, and the space sector generally at a meeting in Moscow today, three days after Roscosmos director Vladimir Popovkin was reprimanded for not properly executing his duties.

The meeting of an interdepartmental commission today and Friday’s reprimand come in the wake of a Proton-M rocket failure on July 1 Eastern Daylight Time (July 2 local time at the launch site in Kazakhstan).  Faulty installation of three of six angular rate sensors caused the rocket to veer out of control and crash 17 seconds after launch.   Three Russian GLONASS navigation satellites were destroyed.

Rogozin initially repudiated early reports that the rocket failed because the sensors were installed improperly.  He called the theory a “red herring” because the installation procedure was virtually foolproof.   Indeed, however, that is what the failure investigation concluded.   Today Rogozin rhetorically asked “How can you install sensors wrong?”   Russia’s Itar-TASS news agency summarized Rogozin’s statements as blaming the incident on “lack of labor discipline, criminal negligence and the casual attitude from” Roscosmos. 

On Friday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed an order reprimanding Popovkin for “unduly execution of his occupational duties.”   A criminal investigation was opened days after the launch failure, but it is not clear what individuals or organizations are its targets.

Russia plans to resume Proton launches in September, with four or five launches by the end of the year.  SES’s Astra 2E is the satellite currently scheduled for launch in September.  Commercial Proton launches are conducted by International Launch Services (ILS) which said on Friday that it expected to receive a summary of Russia’s failure investigation over the weekend and its own Failure Review Oversight Board would begin meeting on August 9 and tentatively conclude by August 16.

Rogozin was put in charge of the space sector in December 2011 after a series of launch failures.  He quickly ordered Roscosmos to develop a long range plan, which it did, but today Rogozin dismissed those efforts, saying “we have had much paperwork” but there has been “no result,” and “[w]e are also lacking major political objectives for the space industry.”

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