Putin Calls for Russian Space Industry Upgrade
In a terse story today, Russia's government news agency Itar-Tass reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin feels the Russian space industry structure needs "upgrading" and personnel shifts may be part of it.
According to the report, Putin asked Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and Russian space agency (Roscosmos) head Vladimir Popovkin to make proposals along those lines. "You may propose personnel reshuffle if necessary," the news agency quotes Putin as saying.
Putin put Rogozin in charge of overseeing the space sector last December after a series of six failures in 12 months. At the time, Putin was Prime Minister and Dmitry Medvedev was President. Putin had been President previously, but was limited to two terms. He took the Prime Minister spot while Medvedev was President and after this spring's elections, Putin has returned to the Presidency and Medvedev is Prime Minister. Both therefore have a long history in running the country and being aware of the growing challenges in the Russian space industry.
Russia's usually reliable launch vehicle fleet has been suffering an unusual number of failures since December 2010. Another failure of the Proton rocket three weeks ago created the latest calls for reform. Proton is Russia's largest rocket and key to Russia's success as a global launch services provider.
The head of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, which builds Proton, already resigned. Many wonder if Popovkin's job is safe. Putin replaced his predecessor, Anatoly Perminov, reportedly as a result of the December 2010 Proton failure that doomed three GLONASS navigation satellites that were particularly significant as they would have completed the 24-satellite constellation, a Putin priority. An October 2011 launch finally achieved that milestone.
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