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Forced Retirement of Roskosmos Chief Long in the Making

By | May 2, 2011

      [Satellite News 05-02-11] The Russian Government has ordered Anatoly Perminov to retire from his post as chief of the Roskosmos Space Agency and has replaced him with Russian military veteran Vladimir Popovkin, the Kremlin announced April 29.
          Perminov, who served at Roskosmos since 2004, is the third high-ranking Russian space official to leave the organization after the country lost of a number of Glonass satellites in a December launch failure. Russian president Dmitry Medvedev wasted little time in wielding the axe after the Proton-M carrier rocket veered off course and sunk in the Pacific Ocean. The rocket was equipped with a DM-3 booster, designed and manufactured by Energia.
          Energia’s chief designer of rocket and space systems Vyacheslav Filin and deputy head of Roskosmos Viktor Remishevsky lost their jobs based on a report prepared by a State Investigation Commission. At the time, Perminov was only reprimanded for “not enforcing all the necessary pre-launch safety procedures and failing to spot a mistake in calculations that led to the carrier rocket veering off course and crashing into the Pacific Ocean, destroying the additional satellites needed for the Glosnass network,” according to the report.
          The Commission report also concluded that Energia experts miscalculated how much fuel was needed for the DM-3 rocket booster. As a result, the amount of oxidant exceeded the norm by 1-1.5 tons and excessive weight prevented the Proton-M rocket from putting the satellites into their calculated orbit. In addition, the company’s management did not follow all the necessary pre-launch safety procedures and failed to spot the mistake in calculations, the Commission reported.
          The Glonass global navigation satellite system is one of Russia’s major space programs. It is a dual-purpose global navigation system designed to serve the Russian Ministry of Defense and civil users. The system is intended to provide continuous navigation coverage allowing an unlimited number of domestic and foreign users at sea, in the air and on land to determine precise coordinates, velocity and time Russia wants to bring advanced space navigation technologies to help aid socioeconomic development of Russia and national security. The Global Navigation System state program was approved by the regulation No. 587 of the Government of the Russian Federation in 2001.
          Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hinted at Perminov’s removal in January, when he announced plans spend $3.8 billion on his country’s national space program in 2011, which included the launch of a federal program to develop the Glonass satellite navigation system until 2020. “We must remember that space exploration is not only a traditional priority of Russia but also a source of national pride. Russia will work to increase its share in the global space market by designing new models of unmanned and manned spacecraft, participating in more international space projects and building a new space center,” Putin said in a statement.
          A Russian Space Industry report issued by the Kremlin showed that, as of 2010, the Russian rocket and space industry included between 92 and 112 organizations, which employed 232,000 to 250,000 people. The country saw a space-funding boost in the early 2000s, which was expected to generate return on Russia’s investments in space.
          In September 2009, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that Gennady Raikunov, a director general at Russia’s chief space technology certification center, warned government officials that its system of rocket and space industry quality controls were in desperate need of reform. “Organizational and methodical management of quality and reliability control divisions within the rocket and space industries have been broken and these divisions themselves have declined," Raikunov said in a statement to Russian parliament.
          While a string of failures continued to plague Russia’s space interests, Russian Space Forces recently announced that they re-established control of the Geo-IK-2 military satellite after losing contact with the spacecraft in February.
           The officials said the Russian Space Agency has already received telemetric information from the satellite and that it has resumed collecting and analyzing data. Geo-IK-2 was designed to help the Russian military draw 3-D maps of the Earth in order to locate the positions of various targets. The satellite’s launch on a Rokot SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile-based rocket, which was delayed from December due to technical malfunctions, placed Geo-IK-2 in a different orbit than the one planned for the mission. Russian military officials said ground control located the orbit the satellite entered and established contact shortly after.
          Russia switched on two reserve Glonass-M satellites in order to compensate for the ones that were lost. Russian space agency Roscosmos plans to launch another three Glonass-M satellites on a Proton heavy carrier rocket later this year.
          Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Com. Oleg Stapenko said that while contact has been established, officials are trying to determine if its orbit would allow the spacecraft to complete its assigned mission. “We are currently maintaining steady contact. The satellite’s elliptical orbit was not as dramatically off course as originally suspected, but a joint task force of space and defense officials are now studying whether the craft can be made operational.”

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