Consolidating the Russian Space Industry

Proton Rollout
Credit Anatoly Zak/ Russian Space Web


It would perhaps be more than a little overreach to describe the state of the Russian space industry as a “train wreck,” but news that a Proton rocket, scheduled to launch the Satmex-8 telecommunications satellite  was damaged during rail transport last week  and will be need to be replaced, does little to bolster confidence in the overall state of the world’ oldest, and largest launch establishment. In this case, thanks to its prolific launch schedule, a replacement Proton is already on the way to enable a planned December 27th launch, but with lingering concerns following a Proton launch failure in August, as well as in August 2011, there is clearly cause for continued concern. One solution, not just to the specific issues regarding Proton, but to the overall industry may be a major reorganization.

Pending the results of a report grading current reform efforts due in early 2013, Vladimir Popovkin, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency is considering a renewed effort to initiate a consolidation of the nation’s sprawling, and very splintered space industry into either a limited series of separate holdings among major areas, or alternatively, into one large state-run enterprise.

Even as its hardware has remained remarkably consistent, the  Russian space establishment has been through a wrenching series of changes over the years, and there is quite likely more to come, particularly as it responds to externally driven pricing pressure from which it has traditionally been immune.

Considering the current state of  the fractured space industry in the nations of the former Soviet Union, it seems clear that although the issues are quite different from those Europe is facing in formulating new launch vehicle plans, one thing they have in common  is the degree to which bureaucratic impediments and conflicting governmental priorities (geographic return) effectively prevent any focus on developing truly efficient launch solutions.

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