by Douglas Messier
Dmitry Rogozin, the blunt talking Russian deputy prime minister who once suggested NASA use a trampoline to launch its astronauts to the International Space Station, has been dumped from the government as Vladimir Putin begins his fourth term as Russian president, according to media reports.
Rogozin, who has overseen the defense and space sectors since 2011, was not on a list of government officials submitted to the Duma for approval by Dmitry Medvedev, whom Putin has nominated to continue serving as prime minister.
Rogozin is being replaced as overseer of the defense and space sectors by Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov.
Putin appointed Rogozin to oversee these sectors as the Russian space program was experiencing a series of launch failures. While the number of launch failures is lower than when Rogozin began his oversight, so is the number of Russian launches overall. A nation that typically leads in annual launches has increasingly fallen behind the United States and China.
The Russian launch industry has continued to experience quality control problems. The venerable Proton and Soyuz boosters have been periodically grounded for extended periods of time. The sector has also faced fierce competition for commercial launches from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which markets the low-cost Falcon 9 booster.
In public remarks last month, Rogozin appeared to cede the commercial launch market to SpaceX, saying he saw no reason to try to compete with the company. He said satellite manufacturing is a much more lucrative area to pursue.
A key accomplishment of Rogozin’s time in office has been the consolidation of the space industry under Roscosmos, which was transformed from a space agency into a corporation. The effort was patterned after Rosatom, a corporation that focuses on nuclear technology.
Rogozin also had oversight of the construction of the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East. The project, which is intended to reduce Russian dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, was plagued by delays, embezzlement and unpaid wages. The first launch from the new spaceport occurred in April 2016.
Rogozin is among a number of high-ranking government officials who are under U.S. sanctions as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. In 2014, the American government froze his assets and banned him from traveling to the United States.
Rogozin responded by suggesting that the United States launch its astronauts to the space station by trampoline instead of flying aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft.