Russia sets deadline for launch improvements

Russia’s prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has set mid-September as the deadline for the nation’s space agency to get its act together and propose ways to boost quality control for its troubled Proton rocket system. Earlier in August a Proton rocket failed to launch two satellites into orbit, representing another severe body-blow to Russia’s credibility as a viable alternate launcher to the French Arianespace system.

Meanwhile, and not helping with an already confused structure of responsibility, the reported resignation of the Krunichev (which builds much of the Proton rocket) general director, Vladimir Neserov, has been denied. “Since the president has not signed a decree to dismiss him, Mr. Nesterov will continue to act as Khrunichev general director,” said a statement from ILS, which uses the Proton rocket for its own launches.

ILS is badly affected by the suspension of Proton launches. Over the next month or two it had hoped to launch satellites for Intelsat, EchoStar, Gazprom of Russia and Mexico’s Satmex. The four launches represent around $1 billion worth of satellite hardware and associated costs.

In a statement of its own, Krunichev says it has suffered only 4 failures down to its equipment, although blames another rocket supplier (RSC Energia) for a failed Block-DM upper stage.

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