Three Russian Industry Officials Fired Over Proton Failure

Three Russian Industry Officials Fired Over Proton Failure

Three officials of the company that manufactures Proton rockets have been fired because of the Proton launch failure last month.   The fate of Russian government officials is pending.

A Proton-M rocket carrying three Russian GLONASS navigation satellites failed spectacularly 17 seconds after liftoff on July 1 Eastern Daylight Time (July 2 local time at the launch site in Kazakhstan).   It was the latest in a string of failures of various Russian rockets and upper stages since December 2010 that has been bedeviling the Russian space program.  Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was put in charge of the space program in 2011 to find what was wrong and fix it.

The July Proton failure was caused by improper installation of three attitude control sensors.  Rogozin initially rejected reports that the sensors were installed incorrectly, saying the process was virtually foolproof.  When the investigation board concluded that was, indeed, the problem he rhetorically asked “How can you install sensors wrong?” 

Vladimir Popovkin, head of Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, was publicly reprimanded by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev earlier this month. Today, Rogozin announced that three officials of Khrunichev State Research and Space Production Center have been dismissed from their jobs:  Alexander Kobzar, Dedputy Director General for Quality Control; Valery Grekov, head of the assembly shop; and Mikhail Lebedev, head of the technical control department.  Khrunichev manufactures Proton.

Several other officials reportedly also were “brought to account” and the fate of Roscosmos officials will be determined by late September according to the report in Russia’s news service Itar-Tass.

International Launch Services, which markets commercial launches on Proton, announced last week that the Proton would return to flight on September 15 carrying an SES satellite, Astra-2E. 

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