Putin Demands Massive Government Space Agency Stay Competitive

Vladimir Putin inspects construction at Vostochny. (Credit:  Presidential Press and Information Office)
Vladimir Putin inspects construction at Vostochny. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that his nation’s bloated space sector remain competitive with the West as the entire industry is consolidated under the control of the government-owned Roscosmos space agency.

“Special attention needs to be directed in the course of [new space] programs at strengthening our positions in the spheres of manned spaceflight and in orbiting cargo, primarily in commercial launches,” Putin said at a meeting of space industry officials in Sochi on Thursday.

Russia — historically a leader in the field of spaceflight — has fallen on hard times since the fall of the Soviet Union. Though Russia has managed to stay afloat by selling rides aboard its hardy Soviet-designed rockets, its market share is threatened by the rise of U.S. commercial space companies.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian government’s space czar, raised the alarm on Russia losing its 40 percent market share for commercial launches to American companies like Elon Musk’s Spacex in May, warning drastic reform was needed to stay competitive….

Putin doubled down on Rogozin’s warning Wednesday, telling space officials that “Russian rockets must be reliable and competitive to meet all requirements [set] by leading customers both inside the country and abroad,” Putin said.

Russia has been dealing with a string of launch failures over the past five years that has dented the nation’s reputation for reliability. At the same time, it has faced stiff competition from SpaceX in an area in which it has been dominant in recent decades.

The nation is simultaneously trying to improve reliability in its space sector, complete a new spaceport in the Far East that has been plagued by waste and fraud, consolidate the space industry under Roscosmos, trim a bloated and inefficient work force, attract a new generation of workers to replace retirees,  and formulate a long-range plan for the space sector admit an economic downturn caused by the slumping price of oil and Western sanctions over its military actions in Ukraine.

The long-range plan is about a year later as earlier, more ambitious plans have been scaled down due to economic problems. Putin’s meeting with industry officials last week was part of an effort to define the long-range plan.