February 28, 2011

Russian Space Agency Under Fire For Recent Failures

Russia's powerful Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov issued a stern dressing down to Russian space agency Roscosmos, the Russian equivalent of NASA, at a meeting with Roscosmos's leadership after two satellite launches ended in partial or complete failure in the last three months, AFP reports.

Three Glonass navigation satellites in December ended up crashing into the Pacific near the coast of Hawaii soon after launch due to a simple fuel miscalculation. This month Russia rocketed its new Geo-IK-2 military satellite into a wrong orbit, rendering it useless.

The public and painful failures come as Russia gears up to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Yury Gagarin becoming the first man in space this April, still considered to be one of the most important achievements in its history.

Ivanov tells AFP that the failed launch of the Glonass satellites alone had cost Russia $86 million. "The recent failure with the Glonass satellites is a characteristic example," Ivanov explained. "I won't go into details, this was a mistake, but a childish one and a mistake that had serious consequences."

"Any repeat of the mistakes of the recent past -- and I am referring to the loss of the Glonass satellites and the partial Geo-IK failure -- is of course unacceptable," he warned, quoted by Russian news agencies.

A bitter Ivanov continued by saying that Roscosmos had failed meet its goals in the production of spacecraft and rockets, claiming it produced only 5 of the 11 spacecraft it was intending to build in 2010 and that six spacecraft for civilian purposes had failed to launch last year due to delays.

"And I am not even talking about the systematic delays to launch dates which were a consequence of the spacecraft not being ready," Ivanov concluded.

Reclaiming a bit of pride, Russia on Saturday successfully launched a Glonass satellite from its northern Plesetsk launch pad.


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