Roscosmos stops using Ukraine's Zenit launch vehicles

The Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) is set to replace Zenit launch vehicles built by the Dnipropetrovsk Yuzhmash plant in Ukraine with brand new Angara rockets, Izvestia wrote on Monday.

The Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) is set to replace Zenit launch vehicles built by the Dnipropetrovsk Yuzhmash plant in Ukraine with brand new Angara rockets, Izvestia wrote on Monday.

"Our industry has just developed a new rocket capable of performing any mission, so we think it will be pointless to buy rockets from Ukraine," Roscosmos spokesman Igor Burenkov told the newspaper.

The decision to stop buying Ukraine's Zenit rockets was made after the appointment of the new head of Roscosmos in January 2015, the newspaper said.

The former head of Roscosmos, Oleg Ostapenko, did not plan to do so and two Zenit missions were scheduled for this year and another three for 2016-2018, it noted.

Upon appointment, the new administration of Roscosmos decided to stop using Zenit vehicles almost immediately. Moreover, Yuzhmash had been experiencing serious problems. On January 22, the plant staff went on a two-month unpaid vacation.

In turn, the Center for Operation of Space Ground-Based Infrastructure said two Zenit rockets had been built and delivered to Russia.

"The first one is due to be launched in June 2015, sending the Elektro-L2 satellite into orbit and the second is planned to launch the Spektr-RG satellite. I do not expect any problems in the Elektro-L2 mission but I am a bit worried about Spektr-RG because a team of Yuzhmash specialists is expected to join the pre-launch preparations. Spektr-RG will be launched no earlier than in 2017 and if the plant [Yuzhmash] halts its operations by then it will be unclear who will come here to support the launch and from where [they will come]. It is not clear either what shall be done if some [rocket] unit requires a replacement; there are lots of units with an extremely limited period of warranty," a center executive told Izvestia.

In his words, Yuzhmash has basically built another Zenit rocket for launching Ukraine's Lybid satellite.

Yuzhmash officials declined comment.

The Russian Natural Resources and Ecology Ministry told the newspaper that they had no official information about the postponement of the launch of weather satellites, three of which were supposed to be sent into orbit by Zenit rockets.

Burenkov told Izvestia that Roscosmos was doing its best to avoid major delays in the deployment of satellite groups.

"We have a broad range of launch vehicles and we are able to find a substitute for Zenit if necessary," he said.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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