Top Russian fired over satellite catastrophe

The head of Russia’s leading rocket-making organisation has resigned. Vladimir Nesterov, 63, is leaving the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre, which manufactures Russia’s Proton rockets, after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev harshly criticised the industry. A Proton rocket failed earlier this month leaving two broadcasting satellites in useless orbit.

Russia’s reputation, such as it is, for building reliable rockets is now under strain. Officials said this week that a fuel pipe had fractured on the final Briz-M stage of the rocket. “We are losing our authority and billions of roubles,” Medvedev told government officials last week. “We cannot stand this any longer.”

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has also jumped into the row, and blamed the overall failures on ineffective management and a lack of fresh talent joining Roskosmos. “As long as our youngest director of Roskosmos’ manufacturers is 62, Mars rovers will only be a dream,” Rogozin said.

The knock-on damage caused by the failed launch is badly delaying ‘western’ launches organised by International Launch Serrvices (ILS) which although having no responsibility for this latest problem nevertheless has to wait until an official State Enquiry review board, as well as an investigation from ILS themselves, recommends what technical changes must be made to the Briz-M final stage.

ILS’ next mission is to launch Intelsat-23, and this will now slip at least a month.

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