Press Release

Interview with RSC Energia President Semenov Regarding News Allegations Following Astra-1K Accident

By SpaceRef Editor
January 10, 2003
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On the eve of the New Year of 2003, some news media publications covered the allegedly insecure position of S.P. Korolev RSC Energia claiming that it was due to the technological problems and financial difficulties the Corporation is currently experiencing.

The publications appeared in relation to the information concerning the known difficulties in drawing up the Rosaviakosmos budget for 2003 intended to perform the activities under the International Space Station, as well as the failed Astra-1K spacecraft injection into a target orbit.

In this connection, Yu.P. Semenov, President of RSC Energia after S.P. Korolev, General Designer, gave the interview to N.I. Yermakova,, the Editor of the newspaper “New Technology”, that is published below.

Q: Yuri Pavlovich, do you think the Corporation still has technological problems? What are they like?

A: First of all, let us turn to the Corporation’s performance over the previous years. Over the three-year period alone on the turn of the new century (2000 through 2002), 51 launches of different class launch vehicles assisted by our DM-type Upper Stages, space vehicles and modules have been performed. 54 space vehicles and spacecraft have been injected into operational and geotransfer orbits, including 17 space vehicles sent to the Mir Orbital Complex and the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Manned Space Program. Of course, it speaks for itself. It is hardly probable that any other space-related organization has such a good track record. If there had been any technological problems, the Corporation would not have fulfilled the program like that.
However, we are faced with current technological and manufacturing issues. It is a normal routine for those who work. Most of the arising problems are due to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the national economy reorganization.

For instance, let us consider our Kurs rendezvous radio system to be installed on the Soyuz TM and Progress M, M1 space vehicles. This system was developed in Russia and manufactured in the Ukraine. The Ukrainian manufacturers pursued the policy of a steady increase in the cost of this equipment, that is why we had to resume production of the equipment in the Russian enterprise. Concurrent with the above measures, we embarked upon reuse of this system equipment kits, for which purpose we removed them from the Progress cargo vehicles after docking with the ISS and returned to Earth. At the present time we are busy launching production of some systems and equipment at our enterprise. Thus, it is an ongoing process governed, first of all, by technical and economic feasibility.
Failure to inject Astra-1K into a target orbit received wide coverage in the press. I can tell that in this case a single failure of the tested highly reliable main engines to be installed on DM Upper Stages took place. It was confirmed by the Interagency Committee established by Rosaviakosmos Director and the RF Space Forces Commander for this contingency review. The Committee regarded it possible to further use the engines as part of DM Upper Stages during performance of the next launches with due regard of its recommendations made. On December 25, 2002 the DM Upper Stage was flown successfully, with no remarks. Three spacecraft at a time of the Russian global space navigation system GLONASS were delivered into a high circular orbit at altitude of some 19000km. So we have no unsolved technological problems here. I think that some journalists guided by considerations of momentary advantage seek to create a sensation, distort facts, publish articles with groundless forecasts of the crash of nearly the entire cosmonautics.

For some unknown reasons there were no similar forecasts in quite recent times, when the Proton launch vehicle (LV) failed, which, to a certain extent, led to the delay in orbital insertion of the Russian Service Module Zvezda, the ISS key element.

Nor did such forecasts appear on December 12, 2002, when the European Arian-5 ESA LV with an increased carrying capacity failed, which resulted in the failed payload injection into orbit and, eventually, its loss. I would like to emphasize once again that there is no currently more reliable and efficient Upper Stage in the world that Dm-type Upper Stage. During its operational use, 236 successful flights have been performed and only during 10 flights the Upper Stage failures were recorded. This statistical history is unique and based upon a scrupulous, responsible approach both to Upper Stage manufacture and its operation. There is no a 100% reliability. The same is true for DM Upper Stage. We are also concerned about the fact that Proton launch vehicle has had more than 20 failures over the same period, because we are planning to use it in the near future.

Q: What is the financial standing of RSC Energia?

A: The Corporation performed better in 2002 than in 2001.

It should be noted that the Corporation performed well in spite of the fact that the enterprise has been experiencing deficit of budgetary funds for the performed work. In order to conduct our activities, we have to apply for credits. And we have to do this, in order to meet the state’s commitments under the ISS Project. State orders make up no more than 30-40% of the enterprise budget in recent years. The remaining funds we draw from extra-budgetary sources. They include, mainly, different commercial programs: flights of space tourists to the ISS by the Soyuz TM space vehicles, the launches using DM Upper Stages, new Yamal-200 satellite manufacture and launch processing, consumer goods.

A great deal of attention in press have been given to a cutback in the 2003 state funding of the ISS Russian Segment activities. At the present time the Launch Program has been created: two manned space vehicles and three cargo vehicles are currently prepared for launch. Also we are going to manufacture space vehicles intended for the ISS Mission Program for 2004-2005. Based upon the decision taken at the December 2002 Tokyo meeting of the ISS Project Participating Countries Space Agencies Managers, the arrangements are being made to find the required additional funds to continue new Russian Modules development activities in 2003.

Q: What are the near-term prospects of the company?

A: In the area of manned space flight these include continuation of the work on ISS, studies, at this stage only on paper, of various projects such as future space stations, reusable vehicles, missions to the Moon and Mars.

Work continues on the project of the Aurora space launcher system with the Asia-Pacific Space Center as the Customer. The project consists in an extensive upgrade of the system of the Soyuz-U medium lifting-capacity launcher. Design effort continues on the upper stage RB-03, the system of the Onega medium lifting-capacity launcher to be operated from the Plesetsk launch site.

Within the framework of the Sea Launch international company, the new year will see four new launches from the Odyssey launch platform of the Sea Launch space launcher system.

The previous years saw intensive development of efforts on satellites for various purposes based on the generic Yamal satellite bus. This line of work has attracted prospective orders. In the nearest future we expect to start working on new projects developing satellites for various purposes based on the Yamal satellite bus, and in view of this we have prepared at our plant the production facilities with parameters that meet all the state-of-the-art requirements for the manufacturing process, including the maintenance of the highest industrial-standard room cleanliness.

Our specialists are working on multi-purpose electric power systems to be used in all kinds of transportation vehicles, including development of environmentally-friendly public transportation for Moscow. We will continue to work on a one-of-kind hydrogen generation system to be used on-board sea vessels, on space nuclear power systems and propulsion systems.

During the past year the Corporation’s manufacturing facilities were employed not only to manufacture the rocket and space products, but socially important products as well. 120 thousand units of prosthetic and orthopedic devices, more than 103 thousand units of kitchen processors, about 134 units of vacuum cleaners along with significant amounts of other types of products have been produced. Our capability to manufacture this kind of products has aroused interest of partners from abroad, and on December 5 constituent documents were signed to establish a Russian-Italian venture, which plans to produce as early as 2003 220 thousand units of medium-priced vacuum cleaners that meet high international standards.

Thus, the prospects are encouraging and instilling hope that we will be able not only to preserve the staff and production facilities, but also, having received new orders, take further steps towards developing the scientific and technological potential of the Corporation.

Q: And the last question. Why has RSC Energia, for decades a world leader in manned space flight, been paying in recent years so much attention to the work on Yamal satellite bus?

A: The development of the multi-purpose satellite bus currently operated within Yamal-100 spacecraft in geostationary orbit has no analogues in domestic experience. The spacecraft that are currently under construction are Yamal-200 scheduled for launch in mid-2003. An analysis of virtually the entire fleet of spacecraft that are currently being built in Russia has demonstrated that it is feasible to build spacecraft of similar purpose on the basis of this bus, with considerable savings in budget money and on a very short notice. However, all the organizations continue building obsolete spacecraft that were developed 15 to 20 years ago. And the main cause of this situation is conservatism, wastefulness, and short-sightedness of those who are responsible for this area of activities in our country, and accordingly, lack of controls to assure efficient spending of government money.
In conclusion, I would like to express my deep gratitude to all the employees of the Corporation and our partner companies, from both Russia and abroad, for the contribution they made to the implementation of our plans.

I wish you all new creative achievements in 2003, good health, happiness, and always stay in good humor!

Happy New Year!

SpaceRef staff editor.