Criminal charges against Russian workers who caused Proton failure

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The three Russian technicians and their supervisor whose sloppy work caused the spectacular 2013 crash of a Proton rocket immediately after launch have now been indicted on criminal charges and will face trial.

According to investigators, Grishin, Nikolayev and Gudkova in 2011 were tasked with installing the angular rate sensors on the Proton rocket that are responsible for yaw control. “As a result of their violation of technical discipline envisaged by engineering and technological documentation, these sensors were installed incorrectly / at 180 degrees from their correct position/,” Markin said.

The installation error accounted for the vehicle’s wild trajectory, causing its crash and destruction. During the investigation, Grishin and Nikolayev partly admitted their guilt in committing the crime, he said.

In his turn, Nasibulin guided by the fact that over a long time no violations had been found during the installation process and also amid the job cuts withdrew the control operation from a respective list. He did not monitor the process and the sensors were installed without the due control.

Note that they didn’t sabotage anything intentionally. They only did bad work. In the U.S. such incompetence would certainly get them fired, but no one would dream of prosecuting them under these circumstances. It appears that Putin’s government has decided to make them scapegoats and an example to everyone else: Do your work right or else!

Along these lines, Russian government officials have also indicated they are considering imposing fines on manufacturers for any future failures or delays.

Both the criminal indictments and the fines would surely work to prevent further disasters. They will also work very effectively in preventing any risk-taking or innovation from anyone. Who wants to build something new and untested if there is a strong possibility its failure will get you in prison?

Do not expect much creativity from the Russian aerospace industry in the coming years.


  • Why prey tell didn’t the designers design the sensor with three fastners arranged in a triangle so that the sensor could not be mounted the wrong way in the first place? They ignored the true phrasing of Murphy’s law, which is “If there are two or more ways to do something and one of them will lead to total diaster, they som technichian will do it that way.” Don’t blame the techs for bad design.

  • PeterF

    Or at least a “This end up” sticker.
    Of course that only works if the technician can read and cares what it says. ref: “A Christmas Story” when the “Major Award” is delivered.

  • David M. Cook

    Didn’t the Stardust mission have the same type of failure? This probe was supposed to open a parachute and then be snatched in mid-air by a helicopter. As I understand it, the G-sensor was mounted upside down and, unable to detect the increasing gravity, did not pop the ‘chute. Happens to the best of us. Perhaps if the Soviet (I mean Russian) government paid it’s workers something more than starvation wages their performance would improve. Just sayin’!

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