Russia hints at foul play in its space failures

Jan 10, 2012
File illustration photo shows the Soyuz rocket blasting off from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in December 2011. The head of Russia's beleaguered space programme hinted on Tuesday that foreign powers may be behind the string of failures that struck his agency in the past year.

The head of Russia's beleaguered space programme hinted on Tuesday that foreign powers may be behind the string of failures that struck his agency in the past year.

Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin told the Izvestia daily he could not understand why several launches went awry at precisely the moment the spacecraft were travelling through areas invisible to Russian radar.

"It is unclear why our setbacks often occur when the vessels are travelling through what for Russia is the 'dark' side of the Earth -- in areas where we do not see the craft and do not receive its telemetry readings," he said.

"I do not want to blame anyone, but today there are some very powerful countermeasures that can be used against spacecraft whose use we cannot exclude," Popovkin told the daily.

One of Russia's most high-profile recent failures involved the November launch of a called Phobos-Grunt that got stuck in a and whose fragments are now expected to crash back down on Sunday.

Popovkin said there was "no clarity" as to why the 13.5-tonne probe's failed to fire on schedule.

But he admitted the mission was risky to begin with because it involved an underfunded project whose original designs went back to Soviet times.

"If we did not manage to launch it in the window open in 2011 for a , we would have had to simply throw it away, writing off a loss of five billion rubles ($160 million)," he said.

Popovkin was named the head of Russia's space agency in April after its previous chief was sacked in the wake of an embarrassing loss of three during launch.

Yet the problems only multiplied under his watch as Russia lost several more satellites and also saw its Progress cargo ship experience its first-ever failure on a mission to the .

The Mars mission setback was followed last month by the loss of the Meridian communications satellite. Its fragments crashed into the Novosibirsk region of central Siberia and hit a house ironically located on Cosmonaut Street.

No injuries were reported but the 50-centimetre (20-inch) fragment blew a hole in the home's roof.

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User comments : 7

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5 / 5 (3) Jan 10, 2012
Having failed to memorize the range of longitudes for Russia's "dark side of the earth" (area of no tracking/telemetry) could you please define this area. Also, let me guess...with the current chill in U.S.-Russian relations, they're going to blame us, or good old "western imperialism." Quick memo to Russia: Get over it. Suck it up. Squeeze the money out of your oligarchs to pay your scientists and engineers a living wage.
Jan 10, 2012
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5 / 5 (7) Jan 10, 2012
kaasinees, this is an article about space travel, not snow
not rated yet Jan 10, 2012
"Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin told the Izvestia daily he could not understand why several launches went awry at precisely the moment the spacecraft were travelling through areas invisible to Russian radar."
Because Russian radar, as good as it is, nor anyone's radar can see your spacecraft once it has plowed into the dark side of Mount Everest...that's one possible explanation!
And when you say "foreign powers" do not exclude Santa honestly...he tends to use the same flight path and space corridors due to his northern launch point! His reindeer and sleigh generate tremendous turbulence at extremely high Mach numbers as they pull up to and PASS your ships either limping back to earth to die or STUCK in LEO (Not the constellation but Low Earth dig?) Wha? You guys in Russia DO track Santa every Christmas...right?? No, check with the Dr. Claus orbiting garbage retrieval and recycling company, I am sure they have all the RIGHT STUFF, U need!
4.8 / 5 (6) Jan 10, 2012
Wow, what a load of BS! Just admit that you took some shoddy approaches to putting this thing together and don't blame the rest of the world for your mistakes. I read somewhere that they noticed last minute that the wires controlling the thrusters were connected incorrectly and they reversed the polarity by re-soldering them instead of taking the thing apart and doing it the right way. Also they launched it with known software glitches. This whole concept of sabotage is complete BS.
3 / 5 (1) Jan 10, 2012
I pretty much agree plasticpower, and I'm posting with out doing any research and just throwing this crazy guess out there, but the second thing I thought while reading this (first being Plastic powers sentiments) was of the story of Iran hacking into that U.S. drone and bringing it down. Same kind of thing possible with their lost missions?
1 / 5 (1) Jan 10, 2012
Now we all know he's looking for an acceptable scapegoat for Putin, BUT if my immediate career options were shaping up into either an accidental death or a one-way trip to somewhere remote and inhospitable I'd be looking to blame "someone else". If that "someone else" isn't local and wouldn't be bothered to respond to an obvious lie with reprisals against me then I'd go for it too.
not rated yet Jan 10, 2012
Considering the sort of security lapses that allowed a Russian woman to sneak into a Russian rocket facility and take dozens of photos, http://lana-sator...l#cutid1 , perhaps they should look internally for the source of their problems.

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