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Proton Rocket Crash Spurs Space Industry Consolidation

Published: May 21, 2014 (Issue # 1810)



  • Proton rocket boosters laid out on the floor of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center.
    Photo: Yevgeny Stetsko / Vedomosti

Last week's Proton-M rocket failure will accelerate the formation of Russia's United Rocket and Space Corporation, a massive space industry consolidation project intended to rescue the country's troubled space industry, the company's CEO said Tuesday.

Igor Komarov, the corporation's chief, speaking before an audience at the Berlin Air Show said Friday's failure of the Proton-M rocket — the fifth crash since 2010 of a tried-and-true Soviet design that first launched in 1965 — reflected "a serious systemic crisis" at the Khrunichev Space Center, where the rocket is manufactured, Interfax reported Tuesday.

Komarov pledged that measures to address the problems at the Khrunichev center would be addressed following the release of an investigation report commissioned by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on Friday, in the wake of the high-profile launch failure — which saw the loss of an advanced Russian-built communication satellite when the third stage of the rocket failed to complete its burn and fell back to earth.

The investigation board is expected to release its findings May 22.

The United Rocket and Space Corporation was created in March, in a direct response to the last Proton accident in June 2013. The corporation is meant to serve as the center of a massive industry consolidation and modernization effort by taking control of the state's shares of the Russian space industry's largest contractors — such as Khrunichev and Energia, which builds Russia's manned spacecraft.

It is not clear by how much the accident will accelerate plans to consolidate the industry under the new corporation, but Komarov at the Russian Embassy in Berlin said on Monday that the process would take 5 to 7 years, adding that "our task is to create a strong Russian space industry," Interfax reported.

"Today, we are at a critical juncture," Komarov said. "Russia launched the first satellite and Yury Gagarin. The whole world knows this. Russia has a huge base of technical and human capacity to produce and launch rockets and satellites, space stations … and, of course, manned spaceflight. But the time is ripe for serious changes to restore its leading position in the Russian space industry."

The establishment of the United Rocket and Space Corporation is one of the priority items of the new Federal Space Agency budget through 2020, which will pump $52 billion into modernization and infrastructure development across the entire industry.

The failure of the Proton-M rocket comes at a time when space industry officials have been asserting the independence of the Russian space industry in the face of Western sanctions and export license restrictions.

Hours after the Proton disaster on Friday, the U.S. successfully launched a GPS satellite aboard a Delta IV rocket — which uses entirely domestic components and does not rely on a Russian engine.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during today’s Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the center’s Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonight’s performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Center’s Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodina’s website for more details.



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