Rogozin Bemoans Uncompetitive Russian Space Industry Amid Continued Anomalies

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has bluntly declared that the Russian space industry is uncompetitive with its American counterparts except in the crucial area of rocket engine development.

The harsh comments by Rogozin, who oversees the space and defense sectors, come amid continued quality control problems that affected two recent launches and a review of Roscosmos ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

Rogozin was unusually candid in his negative assessment of his nation’s space program.

“Our space industry has fallen behind the Americans ninefold. All of our ambitious projects require us to up productivity 150 percent – and even if we manage that, we will still never catch up with them,” Rogozin originally said to Interfax Friday.

“We will be following the news about NASA and [Elon] Musk and licking our lips while trying to explain ourselves why we don’t need what they are doing,” Rogozin said, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Rogozin took to Facebook later in the day to say that his quotes had been taken out of context.

In the field of space-rocket engine construction Russia are much more competitive than the US both in terms of quality and prices, he said.

Russian officials have long said the space industry is bloated and inefficient with poor quality control. The sectorhas suffered from a series of launch mishaps dating back to 2009.

To address these problems, officials have converted the Roscosmos space agency into a state-owned corporation under which the entire space industry is being consolidated. The model for this venture is Rosatom, a state-run company that oversees the nation’s nuclear industry.

Meanwhile, President Putin has ordered a “large-scale check” of Roscosmos because of launch failures and other problems that have occurred over the past two years. It’s unclear exactly what the review involves.

 Putin was angered last month by a one-day delay in the inaugural launch from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome. The Russian president had flown out personally to the remote spaceport in Russia’s Far East to witness the historic launch.
The flight of the Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket was scrubbed when an automated system detected a problem. The delay was caused by a defective cable in the rocket’s control system that was not manufactured to specifications.
Following the incident, the Director General of NPO Automatics, Leonid Shalimov, resigned from his post. Putin also reprimanded Rogozin and Igor Komarov, who is head of Roscosmos, over the delayed launch.
Meanwhile, Russia’s launch difficulties continued this week. On Sunday, the third stage of a Soyuz-2.1b booster carrying a Glonass-M navigation satellite shut down prematurely after launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

Sources told TASS that the Fregat upper stage fired longer than planned to get the spacecraft to its proper orbit. Glonass-M separated cleanly and is in good condition.

A state commission is probing the engine anomaly.