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New Roscosmos chief prioritizes ending Proton’s reign

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MOSCOW — In his first interview as head of Russia’s Roscosmos house company, Dmitry Rogozin confirmed stories of the venerable Proton rocket’s coming demise, elaborated on plans to restructure and relocate the Khrunichev rocket manufacturing facility, and steered Russia is seeking to make its section of the Worldwide House Station extra autonomous.

“We should now transfer onto a brand new technology of rockets,” Rogozin was quoted as saying in an interview revealed by the state-owned RIA Novosti information company Friday. These efforts are intimately tied with the continuing wrestle to boost the Khrunichev rocket enterprise, Russia’s flagship rocket manufacturing facility, out of a reported 100 billion rubles of debt ($1.6 billion).

Proton
Russia’s Proton rocket. Credit score: Roscosmos

Khrunichev builds each the Proton rocket and the brand new Angara household of launch automobiles. Except for the group’s severe monetary points, Khrunichev has been on the middle of Russia’s repeated launch failure controversies. A number of Proton failures have been linked to high quality management failures on the manufacturing ground.

“When Khrunichev concurrently produces each previous and new heavy-duty rockets,” Rogozin mentioned, “it can inevitably result in the monetary collapse of the enterprise. Everlasting state assist is inconceivable and inefficient, so we have to think about what’s most necessary, and that’s the Angara launch car in mild, medium, heavy and — sooner or later — super-heavy variants.”

Rogozin didn’t particularly identify when manufacturing of the Proton rocket will fold. Numerous unconfirmed stories within the Russian press have positioned that date wherever from 2021 to 2025. Rogozin mentioned solely that “the duty is as follows: produce the mandatory variety of Proton rockets in accordance with already-signed contracts, after which shut the challenge.”

Rogozin didn’t say what number of Proton rockets are on order. The rocket is contracted for business launches internationally although U.S.-based Worldwide Launch Companies, and for the Russian authorities and navy by way of Roscosmos itself. In 2016, ILS mentioned it had signed its first Angara launch contract with the Korean Aerospace Analysis Institute for a launch someday in 2020.

In response to a query from SpaceNews concerning what number of Proton launches ILS at present has on its books, firm president Kirk Pysher mentioned solely that $1 billion in launches are on order and that the corporate continues to promote flights “whereas Russian house trade officers grapple with a doable future transition to new automobiles.”

Pysher mentioned that flights are being bought by way of 2023 and that the corporate is gearing as much as announce the client behind a March assertion of “a number of launch assignments” for the Proton Medium — a variant introduced beneath Rogozin’s predecessor. ILS has beforehand claimed 12 orders on its manifest through 2021.

Proton’s retreat from the market additionally is determined by the velocity with which Khrunichev can relocate from its historic location outdoors Moscow to a brand new manufacturing middle in Omsk, the place the Angara rocket manufacturing middle is positioned, Rogozin mentioned in his interview with RIA Novosti. Solely then will a agency date be given the closure of the manufacturing line.

After wrapping up manufacturing of the Proton rocket, elements of the Khrunichev plant’s Moscow territory will seemingly then be bought off. Nonetheless, Rogozin mentioned this was a matter of debate between Khrunichev and the Moscow authorities.

Requested about stories that Khrunichev’s workers can be slashed from four,256 workers to 1,691, Rogozin mentioned such a transfer was purely hypothesis. He did, nonetheless, say the transfer from Moscow to Omsk — and from Proton to Angara — would entail “the focus of design and engineering personnel,” and recommend that new positions could seem elsewhere in Roscosmos.

“Regarding administrative workers,” Rogozin added, “as digitalization and different trendy strategies of administration are launched, the necessity for a developed forms will lower, and that is regular.”

ISS plans

Probably the most curious a part of Rogozin’s interview with RIA Novosti involved Russia’s still-unfinished section of the Worldwide House Station. Three modules have for years now sat in varied phases of completion on Russian manufacturing flooring, topic to mishaps and delays. Rogozin mentioned the 5 present modules have been caught in a chronic part of testing.

“I’ve set a purpose to place the Russian section of ISS into operation,” Rogozin mentioned, utilizing obfuscated bureaucratic prose. What which means wasn’t instantly clear, however Pavel Luzin, an impartial Russian house coverage analyst, suggests it means Roscosmos is giving up on including new modules and should use its section of the station “as is.” 

Rogozin mentioned “typically, we’ll surrender all experiments developed over the previous 10 years, since they’ve misplaced all relevance.” The principle thrust of experiment work, he mentioned, shall be associated to efforts to extend the Russian section’s autonomy and independence from resupply missions launched from Earth — with a view on enabling future deep house operations. 

In line with Luzin, these phrases could point out a brand new Russian house coverage: “The Russian section of ISS ought to be ready to work individually from ISS.” 

 

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