Space industry workers’ negligence caused Russian spacecraft loss

Negligence by space industry enterprises’ employees was the reason for the loss of an Experss AM-4 telecommunications satellite and Progress M-12M space freighter earlier this year, Russian Prosecutor General’s Office spokeswoman Marina Gridneva said on Tuesday.

“Both incidents were the result of negligence by employees of state space industry enterprises subordinate to [Russian space agency] Roscosmos, [negligence] during control procedures, as well as the absence of proper control by Roscosmos of decision-making by authorized persons,” Gridneva said.

On August 18, a Russian Proton-M rocket lost the Express-AM4 satellite that was designed to provide digital television and secure government communications for Siberia and the Far East. The satellite failed to separate from the carrier rocket and could not reach its designated orbit.

Six days later, the Progress M-12-M freighter fell in south Siberia after failing to separate from the Soyuz-U booster as a result of a rocket engine failure. The cost of the lost spacecraft production is estimated at 650-700 million rubles ($21-22 million).

The accidents triggered serious concerns about the state of Russia’s space industry, prompting the country’s authorities to order massive checks into the production and operation of spacecraft.

The Prosecutor General’s Office has proposed introducing criminal punishment for employees of commercial organizations found guilty of causing serious damage to the country’s space industry, Gridneva said.

The Prosecutor General’s Office has also demanded that those responsible for the loss of the Express and Progress spacecraft are fined and reprimanded.

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