Roscosmos Chief Vladimir Popovkin Replaced
October 11, 2013

Ostapenko Replaces Popovkin As New Head Of Roscosmos

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Former deputy defense minister Oleg Ostapenko has replaced Vladimir Popovkin has the head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), various media outlets reported Thursday.

According to AFP writer Anna Smolchenko, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made the decision to replace Popovkin after less than three years on the job in the hopes that Ostapenko, a former commander of space forces, can help “turn around the once-pioneering industry after a series of high-profile setbacks.”

“The previous Roscosmos chief Popovkin was appointed to the job in April 2011 amid frustration in the government with the country's space program including a series of satellite crashes and other setbacks,” Smolchenko added. “However Popovkin's own stint was marked by continuing embarrassments including a spectacular explosion of an unmanned carrier rocket upon takeoff that was caught on live television in July.”

That crash, which involved an unmanned Russian Proton-M rocket, took place shortly after it launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The rocket exploded in a fireball and spread hundreds of tons of toxic kerosene, heptyl and amyl (the components of rocket fuel) in the region, according to BBC News.

“I hope that a whole number of problems that unfortunately have lately been observed in Roscosmos activities will be overcome with your arrival,” Medvedev said during a meeting with Ostapenko, according to Anatoly Medetsky of the Moscow Times.

“I am hoping that everything, including future launches, will be implemented in accordance with the existing plans,” he added, according to AFP. “Everything that Roscosmos does should be in agreement with state development plans.”

In addition, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the formation of a new state corporation known as the United Rocket and Space Corporation. Smolchenko reported that the organization will group together all of the nation’s aerospace manufacturers, though it is unclear how this new entity and Roscosmos will share responsibility for the country’s space program moving forward.

Medetsky wrote that the Russian government is looking to “strip Roscosmos of its powers to influence day-to-day business decisions” and many aerospace businesses, while also replacing them as official representatives for Putin’s regime on companies’ boards and management teams. However, the space agency would still “hold on to its role as policymaker, dispenser of contracts, supervisor of research and operator of launch pads,” he added.

There has been some speculation that Popovkin was replaced because he did not agree with the decision to form the United Rocket and Space Corporation, Smolchenko noted. She added that economists have criticized the Russian government because of its decision to form these kinds of super-corporations in other industries (including automotive and aviation industries), claiming that they cannot be competitive with private firms.