Heads Continue to Roll in Russian Space Industry

Roscosmos_logoChanges at the top of the Russian space industry have continued as Roscosmos announces a new director for the military projects it oversees, and the acting head of the organization that runs the nation’s spaceport is replaced, according to Russian media reports.

The Moscow Times reports:

Roscosmos deputy head Anatoly Shilov, the man responsible for managing some of the agency’s most sensitive projects — such as military space launches and the development of military and intelligence satellites — will leave the post he has held since 2009, Kommersant reported Wednesday, citing senior space officials.

In 2011, then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reprimanded Shilov after a series of problems plagued several military satellites, among them the crash of a classified Meridian communications satellite used by the Russian military to communicate with naval and air forces operating in the Arctic — the fifth spacecraft loss of that year.

Unidentified space officials told Kommersant that Shilov’s contract will expire in September and will not be renewed. At 60 years old, he has reached the maximum age for civil servants. Though the age cap can be waived, the sources said that Roscosmos has opted to tap Mikhail Khailov as his replacement.

As Roscosmos’ head of unmanned programs in recent years, Khailov is a natural fit to step into Shilov’s shoes. A veteran of the Lavochkin Research and Production Association — one of the most important contractors in the Russian space industry, responsible for the development of many of its military satellites and deep-space scientific probes — he already has access to and experience with working on classified and sensitive projects.

Meanwhile, Roscosmos boss Oleg Ostapenko has dismissed Sergey Lazarev as acting director general of the Center for Ground-Based Space Infrastructure (TSENKI), which operators Russian spaceports. He has been replaced by Sergei Smirnov, the former first deputy director general.

Izvestia reports there is disagreement over the precise reason for the dismissal. Lazarev claims that the order refers to alleged illegal transactions with company assets, which he claims did not happen under his tenure.  Lazarev was appointed acting head of TSENKI last December.

However, Roscosmos said Lazarev has not been fired from the company but simply replaced as director general because he is currently on sick leave. TSENKI needs to a leader who can focus on a series of challenges, including the construction of the new Vostochny spaceport in Russia’s Far East.

When Lazarev returns from sick leave, he will assume his previous position as deputy director general, the space agency said.

Izvestia reports Roscosmos refused to comment on Lazarev’s statement about illegal property transactions. A commission has been examining expenditures at TSENKI, including the purchase prices for fuel at Baikonur and launch insurance. The commission has not published its report.

Izvestia also reports that the relationship between Lazarev and Roscosmos boss Ostapenko has deteriorated in recent months. In the spring, Roscosmos had announced a search for a permanent director general of TSENKI, a competition Lazarev expected to win.

However, just days before a permanent replacement was to be announced, Ostapenko canceled the competition, citing operational needs. Lazarev was quite upset over the decision, leading to a frayed relationship with the Roscosmos head.