Failed space launches haunt Russia; Kremlin eyes probe


Russia's latest space launch failures have prompted authorities to take a closer look into the nation's struggling space industry, the Kremlin said Thursday.

A Russian weather satellite and nearly 20 micro-satellites from other nations were lost following a failed launch from Russia's new cosmodrome in the Far East on Nov. 28. And in another blow to the Russian space industry, communications with a Russian-built communications satellite for Angola, the African nation's first space vehicle, were lost following its launch on Tuesday.

Asked about the failures, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Thursday that authorities warrant a thorough analysis of the situation in the space industry.

Amid the failures, Russian officials have engaged in a round of finger-pointing.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees Russia's military industrial complex and space industries, said in a television interview Wednesday that the Nov. 28 launch from the new Vostochny launch pad in Russia's Far East failed because the rocket had been programmed to blastoff from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan instead of Vostochny. He accused the Russian space agency Roscosmos of "systemic management mistakes."

Roscosmos fired back Thursday, dismissing Rogozin's claim of the flawed programming. It did acknowledge some shortcomings that led to the launch failure and said a number of officials were reprimanded.

Rogozin quickly riposted on Facebook, charging that Roscosmos was "trying to prove that failures occur not because of mistakes in management but just due to some 'circumstances.'"

The cause of the failure of the Angolan satellite hasn't been determined yet. Communications with the satellite, which was built by the Russian RKK Energia company, a leading spacecraft manufacturer, were lost after it entered a designated orbit.

Russia has continued to rely on Soviet-designed booster rockets to launching commercial satellites, as well as crews and cargo to the International Space Station. A trio of astronauts from Russia, Japan and the United States arrived at the space outpost last week following their launch from Baikonur.

While Russian rockets have established a stellar reputation for their reliability, a string of failed launches in recent years has called into question Russia's ability to maintain the same high standards for manufacturing space equipment.

Glitches found in Russia's Proton and Soyuz rockets in 2016 were traced to manufacturing flaws at the plant in Voronezh. Roscosmos sent more than 70 rocket engines back to production lines to replace faulty components, a move that resulted in a yearlong break in Proton launches.

The suspension badly dented the nation's niche in the global market for commercial satellite launches. Last year, Russia for the first time fell behind both the U.S. and China in the number of launches.

While Russia plans to continue to use Baikonur for most of its space launches, it has poured billions of dollars in to build the new Vostochny launch pad. A launch pad for Soyuz finally opened in 2016, but another one for the heavier Angara rockets is only set to be completed in late 2021 and its future remains unclear, drawing questions about the feasibility of the expensive project.

Work at Vostochny also has been dogged by scandals involving protests by unpaid workers and the arrests of construction officials accused of embezzlement.

__

Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation World

Who is White House physician Ronny L. Jackson?
Who is White House physician Ronny L. Jackson?

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson became physician to the president in 2013, when he was appointed by President Barack Obama. It’s a position that has been around since George Washington became president, but it did not become official until Congress created the title in 1928.  Jackson is the 18th person to hold the position, which is...
Deflating tires to drive on ice, snow can be dangerous trick, experts say
Deflating tires to drive on ice, snow can be dangerous trick, experts say

Some drivers say they have a trick to keep from slipping and sliding in ice and snow -- they let some air out of their tires.  Experts say it can help, but it can also be dangerous.  Ralph Creamer of Dayton said it's a technique he started using years ago on the job.  "I answered calls and I lowered the tire pressure and that helped...
White House physician releases official report with details of president’s exam
White House physician releases official report with details of president’s exam

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, the physician to the president, released the particulars of President Donald Trump’s physical exam in an official report Tuesday. It was Trump’s first periodical physical as president and was conducted last Friday at the Walter Reed Army National Military Medical Center. The results were released with...
Navy filing homicide charges against 2 ship commanders
Navy filing homicide charges against 2 ship commanders

The Navy says it is filing negligent homicide charges against the commanders of two ships involved in fatal collisions last year. The USS John S. McCain collision resulted in the death of Champaign County sailor Jacob Drake. Drake was a Petty Officer 2nd class. The charges are to be presented at what the military calls an Article 32 hearing...
Miami Valley unlikely to experience the kind of false alarm that rattled Hawaii
Miami Valley unlikely to experience the kind of false alarm that rattled Hawaii

Last weekend’s false alarm in Hawaii that sent people scrambling for cover is a mistake that is unlikely to be repeated in the Miami Valley, according to Jeff Jordan, director, Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management. Saturday morning, people were alerted by the Hawaii emergency management agency that a missile attack was imminent. ...
More Stories