Russian president warns space officials over failures

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has threatened to punish officials responsible for recent failures in the space industry.

“The latest failures [in space industry] seriously harm Russia’s competitiveness,” Medvedev told regional reporters on Saturday. “This means that we need to conduct a serious analysis and punish those responsible.”

He suggested that the punishment could be doled out either in the form of heavy fines or, if the guilt is obvious, in the form of disciplinary or even criminal penalties.

The Russian aerospace industry has faced a series of misfortunes over the last 11 months. In December, 2010, a Proton-M booster rocket failed to put three Glonass-M satellites into orbit.

The launch of a Rokot booster rocket carrying a military geodesic satellite Geo-IK-2 ended in failure in February.

After the first two mishaps, a number of senior space industry officials were fired and Roscosmos’s chief, Anatoly Perminov, was forced to resign.

However, the problems persisted as the aerospace industry failed to manufacture the planned number of spacecraft and incidents with the launches continued.

On August 18, a Russian Proton-M rocket lost a prized Express-AM4 satellite that was designed to provide digital television and secure government communications for Siberia and the Far East.

One week after the Express-AM4 went off course, a Soyuz-U booster malfunctioned, preventing the Progress M-12M cargo spacecraft from reaching orbit. Its debris fell in south Siberia’s Altai Republic.

The most recent accident involves the Phobos-Grunt interplanetary probe, which has been stuck in a low-Earth orbit after a successful launch on November 9 and would probably never be recovered.

The loss of Glonass satellites alone cost the state 4.3 billion rubles ($152.2 million).

Russia demonstrates its best combat aircraft at Dubai airshow

Russia will demonstrate its most advanced combat aircraft and air defense systems at a major airshow in the Middle East, which started on Sunday.

The Dubai Airshow will be held on November 13-17 in the United Arab Emirates. The Airport Expo complex in Dubai is expected to host about 1,000 exhibitors from 50 countries which will showcase their products to more than 55,000 guests and visitors.

Visitors at the show “will be presented advanced products of the Russian aerospace industry, such as the Su-35 and MiG-29M/MiG-29M2 multifunctional fighters, Yak-130 combat trainer, and Be-200 amphibious aircraft,” Russian state arms seller Rosoboronexport said in a statement on Friday.

The Russian exhibit will also feature a variety of military helicopters, such as the famed Mi-171 transport helicopters, Ka-52 and Mi-28NE attack helicopters and the Mi-26T – the world’s heaviest-lift helicopter.

Air defense equipment will be represented by the S-300VM, Tor-M2E and Buk-M2E air defense missile systems, Tunguska-M1 and Pantsir-S1 air defense gun/missile systems, Igla-S man-portable air defense system, radars, electronic warfare equipment, command, control and communication systems.

Russia has firmly established itself as the world’s second largest arms exporter after the United States. Combat aircraft account for almost half of all foreign sales by Rosoboronexport.

 

Russia puts new Rus-M carrier rocket project on hold

The Russian space agency has dropped plans to construct a new Rus-M carrier rocket by 2015, Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin said on Friday.

“We have come to the conclusion that we do not need a new rocket, we can continue using those we already have,” Popovkin said.

The two-stage Rus-M, intended to replace Russia’s ageing Soyuz carrier rockets, was being developed by the Energia space corporation, which had already received 800 million rubles (more than $24.8 million) of budget funds for the project.

The carrier rocket was intended to launch new-generation spacecraft from the Vostochny space center currently under construction in the country’s Far East starting from 2018.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in April the launch vehicle, whose draft model was first presented at the MAKS 2009 air show in Moscow, was scheduled to be developed by 2015.

The carrier rocket has faced strict safety requirements so that it could guarantee a takeoff or ensure a continuous flight or an ejection with a safe landing even with one of its engines out of action.

The Russian aerospace industry has faced a series of misfortunes in less than a year, including the loss of three Glonass satellites and a prized Express-AM4 satellite, as well as a Progress M-12M space freighter in south Siberia’s Altai Republic.

The loss of the space freighter, which was caused by a Soyuz rocket engine failure, raised concerns about the safety of the Soviet-era Soyuz spacecraft. After the retirement of the U.S. shuttle fleet last summer, Soyuz carrier rockets became the only way for astronauts to reach the ISS until at least the middle of the decade.

Following the August 24 accident, Roscosmos moved to improve control procedures in the space industry.

Glonass-M satellite launch postponed until Sunday

The launch of the Soyuz-2.1B carrier rocket with the Glonass-M navigation satellite was postponed until Sunday because of the approaching cyclone, Russia’s Space Forces spokesman Colonel Alexei Zolotukhin said on Saturday.

The launch from the Plesetsk Space Center in northern Russia was scheduled for Saturday, but it has been postponed since the wind force exceeds the characteristics, allowed at the altitude of 7-10 kilometers, Zolotukhin said.

The Space Forces commander, Gen. Oleg Ostapenko dismissed any technical mishaps of the Soyuz carrier rocket.

“All the technical checks were held without flaws,” Ostapenko added.

Glonass is Russia’s answer to the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian uses. Both systems allow users to determine their positions to within a few meters.

The Russian aerospace industry has faced a series of misfortunes over the last nine months, including the loss of three Glonass satellites, a prized Express-AM4 satellite and the fall of the Progress M-12M cargo in south Siberia’s Altai Republic.

The loss of Glonass satellites alone cost the state 4.3 billion rubles ($152.2 million).

Russia set for launch of Proton-M carrier rocket with Mexican satellite

Russia’s Proton-M carrier rocket with a Mexican telecommunications satellite, QuetzSat-1, will be launched on Thursday from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, a spokesman for the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) said.

“The launch of the Proton-M carrier rocket with QuetzSat-1 satellite has been scheduled for Thursday at 22:32 Moscow time [18:32 GMT]. The separation of the satellite from the carrier rocket has been slated for Friday at 7:45 Moscow time [3:45 GMT],” the spokesman said.

This will be a second launch of Proton-M carrier rockets equipped with Briz-M boosters, following a recent string of launch failures in the Russian aerospace industry.

On August 18, a Russian Proton-M rocket lost an Express-AM4 satellite that was designed to provide digital television and secure government communications for Siberia and the Far East.

One week after the Express-AM4 went off course, a Soyuz-U booster malfunctioned, preventing a Progress M-12M cargo spacecraft from reaching orbit and a link-up with the International Space Station (ISS).