Tag Archives: Putin

Roscosmos re-inspecting all Progress/Soyuz capsules

The Russians are going to give all Progress and Soyuz capsules being prepared for launch a new inspection following the discovery that the airleak on the Soyuz docked with ISS had been caused by a technician on the ground prior to launch and covered up.

The consequences to Russia’s space industry because of this incident are going to be difficult to measure. It surely signals that they have still not got a handle on their quality control problems. In fact, it provides further proof that the technical work coming out of Russia is shoddy, sloppy, and filled with many forms of corruption, all circumstances that should give pause to anyone thinking of flying a product or themselves on a Russian-made product.

Worse, the centralized government-run space industry created by Putin is exactly the wrong thing for fixing these problems. Russia does not have a competitive and free aerospace industry. Everything is run by the government and based on the ability to wield political power rather the ability to demonstrate skill and quality in how you do your job.

With only five launches expected in 2019, Russia’s space program is sinking to the level of a third world country. This airleak disaster will only help it sink further.

One last note: I predicted this kind of disaster back in 2013, when the consolidation of Russia’s aerospace industry was announced by the Putin government. My prediction was not very difficult, nor especially brilliant, since disasters like this always occur from government-run top-down socialist/communist systems. One only has to be patient. It is only a matter of time before the system fails, and fails badly.

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Russia throws in the towel

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who Putin had placed in charge of Russia’s space effort, today said in a television interview that it makes no sense for them to try to compete with SpaceX in the launch market.

“The share of launch vehicles is as small as 4% percent of the overall market of space services. The 4% stake isn’t worth the effort to try to elbow Musk and China aside,” Rogozin said in an interview on the RBC-TV channel on Tuesday.

He estimates the real market of space services at approximately $350 billion, with the creation of payloads, and not the launch of these payloads in space, accounting for the bulk of the sum. “Payloads manufacturing is where good money can be made,” he said.

Translation: We can’t figure out how to cut our costs and build better and cheaper rockets without eliminating many government jobs, so we have decided not to try. And we are going to make believe this failure is a good decision.

In response to the competitive threat from SpaceX, Putin’s government decided to consolidate their entire space industry into a single government corporation, run by their space agency Roscosmos. This reorganization however has failed entirely. Rather than encourage innovation and a lowering of costs, it served to make Russia’s entire aerospace industry a servant of politicians, who are more interested in distributing pork than building an efficient and competitive business.

Rogozin is thus essentially admitting here that Russia has lost its international commercial space business, and is therefore rationalizing that loss by claiming they never really wanted it in the first place.

This story confirms that Russia will be launching far fewer rockets in the coming years. Their dominance as one of the world’s launch leaders is now fading.

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Putin promises a Russian Mars mission in 2019

The new colonial movement: In a documentary released this week Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged that his country will send an unmanned mission to Mars in 2019, and that it will be aimed at studying water at the red planet’s poles.

This is funny. Putin is likely referring to ExoMars 2020, which Russia is partnering with the European Space Agency (ESA). In that mission, Russia is providing the rocket and the descent and landing technology for ESA’s rover. To claim that this is a Russian mission is a bit of an over-statement, since the only Mars-related equipment Russia is building involves the landing, and the ESA is also participating in that work.

Nonetheless, Putin’s words here illustrate how the competition is heating up. Every nation wants its share of the exploration of the solar system, and they are beginning to ramp up their efforts to make that happen.

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Putin to revive the KGB

The coming dark age: One day after Putin’s party won an easy election victory it has announced that they plan on reviving the secret security force known previously as the KGB.

“The KGB was one of the strongest special services in the world – everyone recognised this,” Sergei Goncharov, who served in Russia’s now disbanded Alpha counter-terror unit in the 1990s, told state media. Mr Goncharov also said the creation of the MGB would provide Russia with a “strong fist” overseen by a unified leadership.

Kremlin critics were horrified by the possible rebirth of an organisation synonymous in Russia with political oppression. “It’s time to get out [of the country],” wrote Elshad Babaev, a Twitter user. “Anyone who can should take the opportunity.”

Unlike the 20th century, however, the west can no longer be called “the free world”, as it was then. Instead, we are lumbering toward the same evils, and thus do not necessarily provide a safe haven for real political refugees that we were then. Instead, our bankrupt intellectual leadership has been rushing to bring in fifth columnists from the Middle East while leaving the real refugees there to suffer persecution by Islamic radicals.

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A detailed look at the Russian elections today

Link here. The analysis is detailed and thoughtful, and gives some perspective about the state of power and control by the present leaders in Russia.

Four parties are expected to secure again their representation in the Duma: the ruling United Russia (UR), the Liberal-Democratic Russian party (LDPR), led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Just Russia, led by Sergei Mironov, and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), led by Gennadi Zyuganov.[1] In contrast, the democratic opposition has fewer chances of being represented. The opposition Russian Democratic Party (“Yabloko”) and People’s Party of Freedom (RPR-PARNAS), cofounded by murdered opposition politician Boris Nemtsov (October 9, 1959-February 27, 2015), will contest the elections separately – a suicidal tactic that mathematically further reduces their already slim chances to enter the Duma and further reduces the credibility of Russian liberalism. The democratic opposition is represented in the elections by yet another independent nominee -Maria Baronova, running with the support of Open Russia movement, founded by former oil tycoon-turned-activist Mikhail Khodorkovsky, residing out of Russia after his release from long term jail.

Bottom line: Putin will remain in power, no matter what happens in today’s elections. Nonetheless, the article is worth reading because it gives some sense of what might happen after Putin.

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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

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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.

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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.

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