The Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev yesterday appointed Oleg Ostapenko as new director of the country’s crisis-ridden space agency, Roscosmos.
Ostapenko, formerly a deputy defence minister in the Russian government, succeeds Vladimir Popovkin, who has been at the helm of Roscosmos since 2011.
“Now you will have time to engage in a different dimension,” Medvedev told Ostapenko at a meeting on 10 October. Congratulating him on his new job, Medvedev expressed hope that “a number of problems in the activities of the Russian federal space agency” will be overcome with the arrival of a new director.
Russia’s space programme has suffered a series of spectacular setbacks in recent years.
In July, a Proton-M carrier rocket crashed seconds after launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, destroying three navigation satellites.
Another Proton-M rocket carrying satellites for Russia’s space-based positioning system Glonass had failed to launch in December 2010.
Medvedev publicly reprimanded Popovkin in August for the shortcomings in his agency’s performance. But his replacement might foreshadow more far-reaching reforms of the Russian space sector, say analysts. According to reports, the government intends to set up a new corporation that would be in charge of Russia’s entire rocket and space industry. Roscosmos would remain in charge only of policy.
For Russia, maintaining its position as a leading space nation is a scientific and economic priority and a matter of national pride. In an effort to remain on top of the game, Vladimir Putin announced in spring plans to invest US$ 52 billion in the nation’s space programme by 2020.