Dispute in ESA over Schiaparelli failure

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Prior to the release of ESA’s preliminary report on the failure of Schiaparelli, the Italian space agency had claimed the problem was caused by the failure of a Romanian subcontractor to do sufficient simulations and testing.

ESA released the preliminary conclusions after the Italian Space Agency had accused that the decisive tests for the Sciaparelli lander simulations had been entrusted to an organization “which hadn’t enough expertize”. It’s about Arca Space Romanian company, based in Las Cruces, USA, as La Repubblica reported.

In retort, the Arca Space Corporation manager, Dumitru Popescu warned the Italian space agency to be more careful, as they don’t have proves to support their accusations. “They could pay the price. We are at ease that we did all we could do: to run a specific test we should have flown very closely to the Russian base in Sevastopol. Russia has just annexed Crimea and we risked generating a conflict between the Russian Federation and NATO,” the Romanian manager argued.

There is something fishy here, but I’m not sure what. That they didn’t do a test because they feared instigating an international incident with Russia does not seem right. In fact, this whole story suggests that the very management structure of ESA, designed to spread work to as many of its partner nations as possible, is the fundamental source of the problem.

Hat tip reader Local Fluff.



  • LocalFluff

    Don’t blame me! I just add up already complied open sources. ;-)

    Schiaparelli, and the whole ExoMars mission projects with the planned 2018 or 2020 rover, is an ESA/Russian collaboration. That they didn’t dare to test launch from an ESA country on a trajectory close above a partnership Russian (disputed) territory, that kind of looks bad for the top level management of this whole mission/organization.

    Was that Romanian company adjusting their engineering because they were suddenly put in charge of making diplomatic judgements in a shooting war, just because no politicians or politically appointed top managers dared to do it for them? If such decisions are left to the lowest echelon, like it actually was when the Berlin wall fell, well then I think that we’re not far from having some kind of European Berlin wall falling again somehow.

    (I can look up sources to prove that it was an individual sergeant police on his night shift on the field, who made the decision to open the Berlin wall, because of an ambiguous statement of the minister of interior on TV the same evening, and all superiors he called refused to pick up the phone out of fear to have to make some kind of decision, because Erich Honecker himself was asleep. And that was how the Evil Empire finally fell.)

  • Alex

    LocallFluff: “And that was how the Evil Empire finally fell.” Is there hope that same will hapen to the evil Merkel regime?”

  • LocalFluff

    I have no idea who that would be. But Fillon came out of nowhere in no time (in the opinion polls) and now suddenly became Marine Le Pen’s challenger. After having been president Sarkozy’s prime minister for 5 years. Pretending to be an anti-establishment candidate will be difficult for him.

    But it happened suddenly. So who knows what will happen to the Merkel. German voters are really tardy and loyal. But if Le Pen wins France, the EU ceases to exist and everything that the Merkel has ever done becomes worthless. Then I don’t think she can remain. But whether she is replaced by a gray more-of-the-same social democrat or some Trumpian opportunist, I don’t know.

  • How is it that a Romanian company is ‘based’ in the US?

  • LocalFluff

    @Blair Ivey
    Probably because the US is the world leader in the space industry. Maybe ITAR has something to do with it too. ARCA develops the Haas rocket, which I don’t think has flown yet. Named after Conrad Haas who in the medieval Transylvania wrote a big book about advanced gun powder propelled rocketry, including multi-staged rockets and with animal payload. Like von Braun he’s job was of military nature, but he spoke out against war. He’s worth looking up on Wikipedia.

  • wayne

    Not to be flippant,
    “they filled out the paperwork.”
    You should be able to go to the State of New Mexico website, and look up their registration. It won’t tell you much; generally, just the Officer’s, an “official” address, and the general business purpose, which is usually something boilerplate such as “any legal activities for which a Corporation in New Mexico is formed.”

    (Their landing page hangs-up my browser (IE), or I would search for it specifically. I did notice, “N.M. is Open for Business!” and they are very proud…)

    I can speak to the State of Michigan; (my wife & I had a Corporation for 7 years.)
    – In ’99 it costs us $89 to file for an Incorporation. (same for an LLC) And that registration included a right/State-authorization, to issue up to 70K shares of Stock. (If we wanted to have “1 million+ shares, the fee was like $1,200.)
    They issued us a State ID number & we were officially a “Michigan Corporation” and then we caused ourselves to become– “employees of a closely held private company, for which we were also the majority shareholders, members of the Board, and Officer’s of the Company.”
    ((None of this “issuing stock” required filing with the Feds or the SEC. As long as you don’t sell stock to the public, you can avoid the Feds entirely in that realm. If you actually conduct business ($ changes hands) however, you do need to register with the IRS and get a Federal Taxpayer ID number. And you also have to create an account with your State Treasury office & pay any fee’s, State taxes due, unemployment insurance, etc.))

    An Incorporation or LLC filing in Michigan is a 3 page document, which must be updated annually ($25), and which also specifies where legal notices from the State are to be sent, (a “Registered Agent”) & the stuff mentioned above.

    I assume [danger!] it’s very similar for other States. (Delaware & Nevada are popular States for creating Corps or LLC’s as well. Has to do with arbitration, liability, & taxation, primarily. As to why they specifically chose NM, I just can’t speak authoritatively.)

    Side tangent– if anyone wants to start a Corp or LLC— skip Legal-Zoom & go directly to your State website (or any State you want, but you generally want to file in the State you live, but it’s not required.) You already pay taxes to your State– they will help you file the necessary documents & directly link you to the IRS, and send you a thick packet of information & documents. You can also access your local small-business development “incubator” program; they will walk you through everything, for free.

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