Does Russian Space Czar Dmitry Rogozin Know What He’s Doing?

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

Back in December 2011, Vladimir Putin appointed Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin as the special overseer of the nation’s sprawling military industrial complex. His task: clean up the inefficient, failure prone and graft riddled sector and bring it into the 21st century.

The appointment came in the midst of an embarrassing string of launch failures that had infuriated Putin and damaged the nation’s reputation as a reliable launch provider. Fixing the space industry’s quality control problems was one of Rogozin’s top priorities.

Despite his strenuous efforts, launch failures continued to occur regularly in the six years since Rogozin’s appointment. On Tuesday, a Soyuz-2.1b launch failed with a weather satellite and 18 CubeSats aboard.

The continued failures have raised questions about the effectiveness of Rogozin’s efforts. His actions following the launch on Tuesday did nothing to dispel the impression that he may not know what he’s doing.

“Dear colleagues, allow me to congratulate you on the successful launch of the Soyuz-2.1b rocket on behalf of the entire board of the Military Industrial Commission and me personally,” Interfax quotes Rogozin as telling the launch crew, which had lined up on the pad at the new Vostochny Cosmodrome.

“For now, I’d like to thank you for the good and conscientious work you have done. Thank you very much for giving our country an occasion to celebrate. Thank you again and good luck. Hail Russia,” Rogozin said. “Having successfully accomplished the Soyuz-2 mission, we are discussing the second stage of the cosmodrome’s construction. We will build another launch pad several kilometers from here for the Angara-5 heavy-lift rocket.”

Why Rogozin would say such things before knowing the outcome of the flight is anyone’s guess. It’s a cardinal rule in the industry that you don’t declare a launch a success until all the satellites are deployed into their proper orbits and phone home.

Some years ago, Rogozin suggested that the United States use trampolines to launch its astronauts into space. He might consider that for Russia’s future launches. Or finding another job. His efforts to reform Russia’s space industry don’t seem to be bearing much fruit.