August 16, 2012
Credit: Credit: International Launch Services
The head of a leading Russian rocket-maker has resigned, the country’s space agency chief said on Thursday, after two satellites were lost in a botched launch in the latest failure to dog the once-pioneering space industry.
Vladimir Nesterov, 63, is leaving the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre, which produces Russia’s workhorse Proton rockets, after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev harshly criticised the industry.
The failure of part of a Proton rocket caused the multi-million dollar loss of Indonesia’s Telkom-3 and Russia’s Express-MD2 satellites last week, according to Russia’s space agency. Telkom-3 was the first satellite Jakarta had bought from Moscow.
“We are losing our authority and billions of roubles,” Medvedev told officials last week. “We cannot stand this any longer.”
Hobbled by a decade of crimped budgets and brain drain, Russia’s once-pacesetting sector is struggling to restore its former prestige after a string of mishaps, including a failed mission to return samples from the Martian moon Phobos.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin blamed the failures on ineffective management and a lack of fresh talent joining Roskosmos.
“As long as our youngest director of Roskosmos’ manufacturers is 62, Mars rovers will only be a dream and Phobos (spacecraft) will fall to the ground,” Rogozin said on Twitter.
Roskosmos head Vladimir Popovkin said talks were tense with Kremlin officials this week.
“We had a very difficult conversation with the prime minister and the president,” he told RIA. “All of the criticism addressed at the Russian Federal Space Agency is objective.”