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“Vladimir Popovkin”
Russia 2013 Space Year in Review
Expedition 37 takes off for the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Expedition 37 takes off for the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Russia once again led the world in orbital launches in 2013, keeping the International Space Station supplied with a study stream of crew members and cargo while earning hard currency with commercial satellite launches.

Although the vast majority of Russia’s launches were successful, the spectacular failure in July of a Proton rocket — which nosedived into the ground shortly after liftoff — accelerated efforts to reform the nation’s failure-prone space program. By the end of the year, the Russian space agency Roscosmos had a new leader and a major effort was underway to consolidate a large part of the bloated and inefficient space sector under a single government-owned company.

During 2013, Russia introduced a new variant of its venerable Soyuz rocket while also making progress on constructing a new spaceport in the Far East and developing a larger human spacecraft to replace the Soyuz transport and a heavy-lift booster to facilitate deep space exploration.


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  • January 6, 2014
Ostapenko Appointed to Run Roscomos
Oleg_Ostapenko (Credit:

Oleg Ostapenko (Credit:

As earlier reported, Deputy Defense Minister Oleg Ostapenko has replaced Vladimir Popovkin as the head of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, as part of a major overhaul of the nation’s space industry. He will head up a beefed up space agency that will oversee an industry that will be consolidated under a single commercial company.

Wikipedia has a biography of Ostapenko that is excerpted below:

“Oleg Nikolayevich Ostapenko (born 3 May 1957) is a Colonel General in the Russian Military, Deputy Minister of Defence, and former commander of the Aerospace Defence Forces, a position he held from their foundation on 1 December 2011 until his promotion in November 2012. Prior to this he was commander of the Russian Space Forces from 2008, replacing Vladimir Popovkin….


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  • October 10, 2013
Report: Popovkin Out as Head of Roscosmos as Industry Reorg Begins
Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin. (Credit: Roscosmos)

It looks like the end of the line for beleaguered Roscosmos chief Vladimor Popovkin, whose two-year reign over the Russian space agency has fallen victim to multiple launch failures and a major industry reorganization they spawned. ITAR-TASS reports:

The Kommersant daily has learnt that Russia’s presidential administration and the government have agreed on the candidates for the posts of the heads of the Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) and the Unified Rocket and Space Corporation (ORKK). According to the newspaper’s sources, the first post of is to be taken by Deputy Defense Minister Oleg Ostapenko, the second by Director of the AvtoVAZ plant Igor Komarov. He will take charge of the country’s entire rocket and space industry and it is the ORKK head that will play a key role in the sector’s development. The current head of the Space Agency, Vladimir Popovkin, who insists on a different version of the Roskosmos reform, will be relieved of his duties….

The Roskosmos head’s resignation is likely to be announced officially as early as Tuesday, the newspaper believes.


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  • October 7, 2013
Roscosmos Head Reprimanded for Failures

Is Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin on the way out? Russia media are reporting that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev officially reprimanded Popovkin for incompetence on Friday following a series of embarrassing launch failures. The official reprimand essentially represents a warning to Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin that he faces the sack if he does not rectify the stated shortcomings in his work. “The head of the federal space agency Vladimir Popovkin must […]

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  • August 2, 2013
Russia to Undertake Major Reform of Space Industry
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

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

ITAR-TASS reports that Russian officials will be moving ahead with a plan to transform the nation’s space industry into a joint stock company:

Shortly after the tragic incident Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin declared plans for reforming the Russian space rocket industry and pooling its enterprises. “A decision has been made to create a special commission that will draft a presidential resolution to reform the space rocket industry,” Rogozin declared. As follows from what he said, some “unified integrated entity” will be in charge of all space rocket technologies soon. The proposed structure – likely to be called a United Space Rocket Corporation – will have the status of an open joint stock company, and not a state corporation.


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  • July 6, 2013
Russian, Ukrainian Rockets Prone to Failure in Recent Years
Another fine day for Russia's space program. A Proton crashes with three GLONASS satellites.

Another fine day for Russia’s space program. A Proton crashes with three GLONASS satellites.

The spectacular crash of Russia’s Proton rocket on Tuesday — with the loss of three navigation satellites — was simply the latest in a series of launch failures that have bedeviled the Russian and Ukrainian space industries over the last 30 months.

The table below shows a tale of woe that began in December 2010 and has resulted in the loss of 15 spacecraft and cost the heads of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and launch vehicle builder Khrunichev their jobs.




Upper Stage




Dec. 5, 2010 Proton Block-DM 3 GLONASS satellites Crashed in Pacific Ocean Block-DM overfilled with fuel making it too heavy to send satellites into orbit
Feb. 1, 2011 Rockot Breeze-KM GEO-IK 2 Stranded in useless orbit Failed restart of Breeze-KM
Aug. 18, 2011 Proton Breeze-M Express-AM4 Stranded in useless orbit Breeze-M under performance
Aug. 24, 2011 Soyuz-U Block-I (3rd stage) Progress M-12M freighter Burned up over Siberia Blocked fuel line in third stage
Sept. 27, 2011 ICBM
(Possibly Avangard)
Missile failed during initial test, crashed 5 miles from launch site Failure of first stage
Nov. 9, 2011 Zenit-2SB
Fregat (Russia) Phobos-Grunt (Russia) Stranded in Earth orbit, re-entered atmosphere Fregat upper stage failure
Dec. 23, 2011 Soyuz-2.1b Fregat Meridian-5 Re-entered over Siberia Failure of Block-1 third stage engine
Aug. 23, 2012 Proton Breeze-M Telkom 3 (Indonesia), Express MD2 Satellites stranded in useless orbits;  Breeze-M later exploded, creating large debris field Breeze-M failure
Dec. 8, 2012 Proton Breeze-M Yamal-402 Placed satellite in wrong orbit; satellite reached planned orbit using on-board propellant Early shutdown of Breeze-M
Jan. 15, 2013 Rockot Breeze-KM 3 Strela 3M Rodnik satellites One satellite reportedly lost, two others placed in orbit; controllers unable to maneuver upper stage to lower orbit for rapid re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere Erratic behavior of Breeze-KM
Feb. 1, 2013 Zenit-3SL
Block DM-SL (Russia) Intelsat 27 Rocket and satellite fell into the sea First stage failure
July 2, 2013 Proton Breeze-M 3 GLONASS Satellites Crashed at launch site First stage failure


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  • July 3, 2013
Russia Plans $70 Billion in Space Spending Through 2020

Roscosmos_logoRussia will spend about $70 billion on its space industry through the end of this decade in an effort to improve capabilities and foster innovation, according to media reports:

Russia will spend 2.1 trillion rubles (about $70 billion) under a state program for the development of the national space industry in 2013-2020, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday….

“The program will enable our country to effectively participate in forward-looking projects, such the ISS [International Space Station], the study of the Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies in the solar system,” he said.


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  • December 29, 2012
Russia Plans Major Reorganization of Space Industry

The Russian government is embarking on an extensive and complicated reorganization of the nation’s space industry that could see Roscosmos transformed into a state-run corporation that would be in charge of the whole kit and caboodle.

A structural reform of Russia’s space industry will see its numerous enterprises united into five or six large holdings, Federal Space Agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said on Monday….

The draft list of industries to get separate holdings includes orbital spacecraft development, in-orbit operation, guidance systems, scientific research, testing and strategic rocketry, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said, also on Monday.


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  • November 27, 2012
Vostochny: A Spaceport to Nowhere?

Anatoly Zak has a fascinating article over at about how the Russian government is struggling to find a good use for the new Vostochny spaceport it is building at great expense in the Far East. Other government ministries — which are avoiding the project like the plague — have taken to calling the project a “dolgostroi,” which is Russian for an endless construction boondoggle.


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  • November 5, 2012
Popovkin: Russian Space Industry Needs Massive Downsizing

Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin. (Credit: Roscosmos)

The Russian space sector has between 72,000 and 92,000 excess workers, which makes the industry bloated and uncompetitive, Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin said on Monday.

“The capacity that existed in the Soviet Union is not needed today. There is a lot of obsolete technology that needs to be gotten rid of. It is also impossible to continue to maintain 242,000 workers with the industry using about 48 percent of capacity. The country can’t feed them. There should be a maximum 150,000-170,000 people working in the sector,” Popovkin said.


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  • October 2, 2012