Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed into law a decree to establish a state corporation that will consolidate developers and manufacturers of spacecraft. The new United Rocket and Space Corporation will take over manufacturing facilities from the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), whose prestige has been severely dented in recent years by a string of failed rocket launches.
The decree was posted on the Russian government’s legal information website on Monday afternoon.
Roscosmos has suffered a series of disasters not stemmed by a series of leadership changes. Three Glosnass satellites were lost after a failed Proton launch in November 2010 and the Mars-bound Phobos-Grunt probe failed to boost out of orbit in November 2011 and unceremoniously splashed into the Pacific in January of 2012. In August of 2012, a part of a Proton rocket’s Breeze-M upper stage shut down after only 7 seconds instead of the planned 18 minutes. The glitch in the upper stage designed to carry the two telecommunication satellites (Indonesia’s Telkom-3 and Russia’s Express-MD2) to their transfer orbit resulted in the spacecraft ending up in completely useless positions.
The mishaps include a Rockot launcher caring a military satellite and the spectacular destruction of an unmanned Progress freighter bound for the ISS that spread debris over western Siberia. In July of this year, a Russian Proton-M rocket booster carrying three navigation satellites for the Glonass network exploded within seconds of takeoff, raining toxic debris down over a wide area around Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome.
The string of costly accidents in the past three years is so jarring that, at one point, the head of Russia’s space agency suggested that it could only be explained by “foreign sabotage.” ‘There’s no need for conspiracy theories, and no reason to take [that] suggestion seriously,” said Alexei Sinitsky, editor of an aerospace trade journal.
The country is set to radically centralize its space industry in a bid to combat major inefficiencies and cut down on the misuse of funds under plans unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the defense and aerospace sectors.
Image caption: Proton and the Breeze-M upper stage, both party to several recent mishaps, are manufactured at the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre, destined to be part of the consolidated organization (Credits: Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre)