[Satellite TODAY Insider 08-17-12] The Russian federal Space agency Roskosmos
could be transformed into a state-run corporation as a result of its failure earlier this month to launch two communications satellites into orbit on a Proton M rocket, Roskosmos Director Vladimir Popovkin said in a statement.
“Under one possible scenario, we'll consider setting up a state corporation called Roskosmos similarly to Rosatom,” Popovkin told reporters during a press conference. “We're preparing such proposals. Our country's prime minister and president have the final say.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued a harsh response to the launch failure that stranded PT Telkom’s Telkom 3 satellite and Russian Satellite Communications Co.’s (RSCC) Express MD2 satellite in useless orbits. In a statement, Medvedev said that it was inexcusable that Russia had experienced 10 satellite launch failures during the span of a year and a half and called for “punishment” of those responsible.
“Nothing of this kind happens anywhere in the world,” Medvedev said.
Shortly after the statement, Russian news outlets reported that Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center director Vladimir Nesterov submitted his resignation in connection with the failed launch. Khrunichev was responsible for designing the hydrazine-fueled Breeze upper-stage engines that prematurely shut down during the mission.
Khrunichev built the RSCC Express MD2 satellite, as well as the Proton rocket and Breeze M upper stage that were supposed to carry the spacecraft into orbit. In a statement, Khrunichev said the third of five planned burns of the Breeze M main engine occurred as scheduled. “However, according to the currently available data, the engine was cut off within 7 seconds instead of after the nominal 18 minutes and 5 seconds.”
The Russian government has a relatively small stake in the nation’s space industry when compared to the size of commercial investments that the country’s facilities launch into orbit. The government allocated 650 billion rubles ($20.3 million) in the country's space industry through 2015, but the total loss value of the two recently stranded satellites was estimated between $100 million and $150 million. PT Telkom invested approximately $200 million to purchase and launch the Telkom-3.
Telkom-3, the first satellite that Indonesia had purchased from Moscow, was built by ISS-Reshetnev with communication equipment made by Thales Alenia Space. Reshetnev recently confirmed that it made contact with Telkom-3. Reshetnev Director Nikolai Testoyedov said it is possible that the satellite could be used for additional tests for a new space platform that is being developed for Spacecom’s Amos-5 satellite, if PT Telkom gives permission.
Analysts are uncertain of the effect that transforming Roskosmos into a corporation would have on Russia’s commercial launch industry. The failed launch prompted Russian space agency Roskosmos to suspend all Proton-M launches until an inquiry into the anomaly is completed.