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Russian space programme close to collapse as latest failure exposes its fragility

Dmitry Rogozin, the minister responsible for the Russian space industry, could only watch as the Prime Minister delivered a damning assessment of his work. Unsuccessful rocket launches had “become a repetitional issue” for the country, Dmitry Medvedev said at a cabinet meeting on Monday. “Dmitry Olegovich, I hope you understand the seriousness of this matter,” he said. The political fallout from last Tuesday’s unsuccessful launch of a Soyuz 2-1b rocket continues at the highest level. And Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin, who has been responsible for the Russian space programme since late 2011, has been attracting a large part of the criticism. Tuesday’s crash was, after all, the tenth under his watch. It reminded everyone that Russia’s space industry remains a few steps away from collapse. Up until an hour after launch, everything was going fine. It was only the second launch at Russia’s new far-eastern Vostochny Cosmodrome, so there was a festive atmosphere. The equipment – the Soyuz 2-1b rocket, Fregat booster, and associated payload of 19 satellites – was well-worked and considered reliable. The rocket was a direct descendent of the one that sent Yuri Gagarin to space, and has been refined thousands of times since. Upon lift-off at 8.42am Moscow time, there seemed little else for Mr Rogozin to do but to declare the mission a resounding success. Which he did, publicly – as Mr Medvedev later reminded him. Three hours later, of course, Russia’s space corporation Roscosmos admitted “anomalies”. They had lost contact with the satellites before they had reached the correct orbit, said a public statement. Soon afterward, reports came through that the load had crashed over the Atlantic ocean.

Read More: The Independent

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