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Proton Rocket Crash Spurs Space Industry Consolidation

Published: May 21, 2014 (Issue # 1810)



  • Proton rocket boosters laid out on the floor of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center.
    Photo: Yevgeny Stetsko / Vedomosti

Last week's Proton-M rocket failure will accelerate the formation of Russia's United Rocket and Space Corporation, a massive space industry consolidation project intended to rescue the country's troubled space industry, the company's CEO said Tuesday.

Igor Komarov, the corporation's chief, speaking before an audience at the Berlin Air Show said Friday's failure of the Proton-M rocket the fifth crash since 2010 of a tried-and-true Soviet design that first launched in 1965 reflected "a serious systemic crisis" at the Khrunichev Space Center, where the rocket is manufactured, Interfax reported Tuesday.

Komarov pledged that measures to address the problems at the Khrunichev center would be addressed following the release of an investigation report commissioned by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on Friday, in the wake of the high-profile launch failure which saw the loss of an advanced Russian-built communication satellite when the third stage of the rocket failed to complete its burn and fell back to earth.

The investigation board is expected to release its findings May 22.

The United Rocket and Space Corporation was created in March, in a direct response to the last Proton accident in June 2013. The corporation is meant to serve as the center of a massive industry consolidation and modernization effort by taking control of the state's shares of the Russian space industry's largest contractors such as Khrunichev and Energia, which builds Russia's manned spacecraft.

It is not clear by how much the accident will accelerate plans to consolidate the industry under the new corporation, but Komarov at the Russian Embassy in Berlin said on Monday that the process would take 5 to 7 years, adding that "our task is to create a strong Russian space industry," Interfax reported.

"Today, we are at a critical juncture," Komarov said. "Russia launched the first satellite and Yury Gagarin. The whole world knows this. Russia has a huge base of technical and human capacity to produce and launch rockets and satellites, space stations and, of course, manned spaceflight. But the time is ripe for serious changes to restore its leading position in the Russian space industry."

The establishment of the United Rocket and Space Corporation is one of the priority items of the new Federal Space Agency budget through 2020, which will pump $52 billion into modernization and infrastructure development across the entire industry.

The failure of the Proton-M rocket comes at a time when space industry officials have been asserting the independence of the Russian space industry in the face of Western sanctions and export license restrictions.

Hours after the Proton disaster on Friday, the U.S. successfully launched a GPS satellite aboard a Delta IV rocket which uses entirely domestic components and does not rely on a Russian engine.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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