Rogozin-chaired conference to name culprits of abortive launch of telecom satellites

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin will hear on Monday a preliminary report of Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) Head Vladimir Popovkin and executives of a number of space companies on the causes of the abortive launch of two telecom satellites on August 6, an aerospace industry source told Interfax-AVN.

"Tentative findings with regard to the causes of the abortive launch of two telecom satellites will be made public and culprits will be named today. Based on these reports, decisions, including those on personnel reshuffle, may be made at the Tuesday conference chaired by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev," he said.

Heads of a number of space companies whose hardware was used in the launch of Express-MD2 and Telkom-3 may be reprimanded, the source said. These include Vladimir Nesterov, 63, General Director of the Khrunichev Space Center (the designer and manufacturer of the Briz-M booster, which brought the satellites to a wrong orbit), Anatoly Syrov, 69, Chief Designer of the Mars Design Bureau (the designer of control systems) and Vladimir Petrik, 54, General Director of the Voronezh Isayev Chemical Automation Design Bureau (the maker of the Briz-M propulsion unit).

Culprits may be named in the Federal Space Agency, too. Agency Deputy Head Anatoly Shilov led the state commission, which supervised the satellites' launch in Baikonur. Yet he is in charge of automated space systems and complexes, not of launch vehicles. The Federal Space Agency used to have a special department dealing with launch vehicles. It was disbanded together with three more departments a short time ago. Instead, a department for spacecraft quality control was formed.

Earlier reports said that an interdepartmental commission investigating the unsuccessful launch of the Proton-M rocket with the Briz-M booster carrying Express-MD2 and Briz-M from Baikonur on August 6 made a preliminary conclusion that the Briz-M control system functioned normally. It also said that the booster's engine failed to reach the nominal thrust and automatically shut down as a result. Preparation for launching booster units of the kind has been suspended for the investigation period.

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