Tag Archives: Putin

A new Russian heavy lift rocket amid Russian budget woes

The competition heats up: Even as Russia today successfully placed a commercial satellite in orbit on the 400th successful Proton rocket launch, Russian sources indicate that — despite budget woes fueled by the drop in oil prices — Russia is moving ahead with the design and construction of a heavy-lift rocket capable of competing with NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS).

From the last link above:

By 2013, Roskosmos drafted a very preliminary roadmap toward the development of heavy and super-heavy launch vehicles. Not surprisingly, it matched closely the strategy that NASA had followed since 2011 within the Space Launch System, SLS, project.

…As the American SLS project, Russian super-heavy launcher plans envisioned building a rocket with a payload of 80-85 tons in the first phase of the program. A pair of such rockets would be enough to mount a lunar expedition. In the second phase of development, the rocket would be upgraded to carry unprecedented 130-180 tons of payload in order to support, permanent lunar bases, missions to asteroids and expeditions to Mars.

As much as I remain a skeptic of SLS, it has apparently struck so much competitive fear in the Russian leadership that they are now willing to try to copy it. Much like the 1980s, when the Soviet rulers bankrupted their nation trying to duplicate American projects like the Strategic Defense Initiative and the Space Shuttle, Putin is now repeating that error all over again. His country has experienced almost a quarter-century of strong economic growth since the fall of communism because, during that time, they focused on capitalism, private enterprise, freedom, and a bottom-up economic structure. Now, they are beginning to abandon that approach and return to the top-down, centralized system of government planning.

As it did in previous century, it will bankrupt them again in this century. Though the Russian government is denying the reports that they are going to trim their space budget, their government’s budget is going to suffer from the drop in the price of oil. Something will have to give.

Update: This review of a book about modern Russia is definitely pertinent: The Land of Magical Thinking: Inside Putin’s Russia

The Putin government moves to take control of Energia

Vitaly Lopota, the president of Russia’s largest space company Energia, was suspended Friday by the company’s board of directors.

The move appears to be part of an effort by Russia’s government to obtain majority control over Energia, of which it owns a 38-percent share. The directors elected Igor Komarov as its new chairman of the board. Komarov is chief of the Russian United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC), the government-owned company tasked with consolidating Russia’s sprawling space sector.

The government is also conducting a criminal investigation of Lopota, which might be justified but to me nonetheless appears to be a power play designed to both eliminate him from the game as well as make sure everyone else toes the line so that URSC can take complete control.

The consolidation of the Russian aerospace industry continues as the government considers taking over privately owned Sea Launch.

The consolidation of the Russian aerospace industry continues as the government considers taking over privately owned Sea Launch.

The Russian government will a take closer look at the idea of buying commercial launch services provider Sea Launch, which is owned by a top Russian space contractor but whose key assets are based in California, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Feb. 19. Moscow has asked the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, and Russian manufacturer RSC Energia, which holds 95 percent of Swiss-registered Sea Launch, to submit an overview of the financial situation of the maritime launch services company, Rogozin said in remarks posted on the Russian Cabinet website. The Russian government holds 38 percent of Energia, which supplies the upper stage of the Sea Launch rocket.

Should the government go forward with the deal, it likely would move the oceangoing rocket pad and command ship from Long Beach, Calif., to a Russian port on the Pacific Ocean, Rogozin said. “Something tells me that if we go for it, then the base will definitely be outside the United States,” he said.

Without question the Putin government is trying to recreate the top-down centralized system that existed during the Soviet era, with everything controlled and even owned by the government. While this might please their love of power, I doubt it will be an effiicent way to compete in the open commercial market.

Which means this consolidation is a wonderful opportunity for the new private launch companies. Soon, Russia will be out of the market, focused instead on launching Russian only satellites and spacecraft.

Posted from Rome, Italy. I am between flights, awaiting my connection to Tel Aviv.