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Proton rocket scandal deepens

The past few years have seen four giant Proton rockets spectacularly fail and in the process destroying their precious – and expensive – satellite cargoes. The latest, that of Satmex-1, failed on May 16th. There is currently a Failure Review Board investigating the technical problems.

But reports from Moscow suggest there may be deeper-rooted problems to the Proton problems. On May 25th Dmitry Dyakonov, the general director of Ekopravo, which advises and certifies legal services for the Proton rocket’s builders, Khrunichev State Research & Production Space Centre, was arrested and accused of providing incomplete certificates to Khrunichev.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister responsible for the space sector, Dmitry Rogozin, last week alleged that Khrunichev had one way or another “embezzled” $118 million in 2014 alone. He said, referring to the rocket failures, “[The] accidents are the result of a systemic crisis from which the State space agency has yet to emerge.”

Russia’s space agency is Roscosmos and on May 22nd Roscomos was accused of “mislaying” billions of Dollars via an “unbelievable” series of accounting violations according to the head of Russia’s national audit unit.

Khrunichev is the majority shareholder of International Launch Services which provides commercial launch services to ‘Western’ satellite clients.

It is worth stating that despite these current and past problems, ILS and the Proton system have successfully launched well over 100 satellites into space.

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