As a result of a new quality control inspection system, the Russians have discovered that three Proton rockets delivered for launch had serious issues, and have sent them back to the manufacturer.
Three Proton-M heavy-lift launch vehicles designated for launching satellites from the Baikonur Cosmodrome will be returned to the Khrunichev rocket manufacturer in Moscow so that low-quality parts can be replaced, a source in the space and rocket industry has told Sputnik.
The defective parts, believed to have been manufactured between 2015 and 2016, were said to have been discovered last month due to checks under a new quality control system introduced by Roscosmos. “Having analyzed the situation, experts came to the conclusion that the replacement of the [faulty] components on the three Proton-M rockets located at Baikonur could only be done at the factory,” the source said.
Two of the rockets have already been loaded up onto a train and sent back, with the remaining rocket to be sent back at a later date.
This is a follow-up on the March 11th story where they had discovered “mismatched” parts on a Proton. They have also had to replace an entire stage on a Soyuz due a malfunction detected prior to launch.
While it is excellent news that the Russians are now catching these issues before launch, that they continue to have such problems at the manufacturing level is not good.
Their problem is that in Russia they do not permit competition. The government works hand-in-glove with the established players to lock out new companies. Thus, no natural mechanism exists to weed out bad operations. They are trying to do it with tighter inspections, but in the end, that just adds cost and slows operations.
Meanwhile, in a related story, the manufacturer of Soyuz rockets has suspended operations because of fear of the Wuhan virus. The suspension probably makes some sense, as they have a lot of rockets (52) already built.
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