MOSCOW, January 29 (RIA Novosti) – Despite a number of failures in the past few years, rumors of a crisis in the Russian space industry are “absolutely wrong,” Federal Space Agency Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said on Tuesday.
“This is absolutely wrong,” Popovkin said at a scientific meeting in memory of a leading Soviet rocket engineer and designer Sergei Korolyov. “We still have the potential, the people who believe in space and… rocket and space enterprises capable of breakthrough projects.”
Russia’s space program suffered a slew of setbacks in recent years, most of them blamed on faulty hardware. The most recent mishap took place last December, when a botched launch of the Yamal-402 telecoms satellite led to the depletion of its fuel supply, shortening its orbit lifetime.
Commenting on one of Russia’s most spectacular space failures in the past few years, the Phobos-Grunt sample mission to the Martian moon Phobos, Popovkin said Roscosmos “burned its fingers seriously” with the failed probe.
In November 2011, Russia’s most ambitious planetary mission in decades got stuck in Earth’s orbit after its engines failed to put it on course for the Red Planet. The doomed probe crashed in the Pacific Ocean last January, after two months in orbit.
“Probably, an outcome like this is logical. One company should not be allowed to design one scientific spacecraft for such a long period, for 15 years,” he said, adding that in this case, “there is no chance to learn from our own mistakes in time.”
Popovkin also said that Roscosmos and the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) have established a working group to coordinate science and space projects, including a possible manned mission to the Moon.
“If the Academy of Sciences will need a man to be sent [to the Moon], a man will be there,” Popovkin said, adding that such missions should be carried out for scientific purposes, “not just to leave a footprint.”