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Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 29, 2011 Heads are expected to roll in Russia's space industry in the wake of the recent failures, above all the August 24 incident when the cargo spaceship Progress M-12M crashed in the Altai Region in southern Siberia, reportedly braking into three parts.
The Roscosmos space agency is now busy rescheduling future launches and setting up a commission of experts to thoroughly check up all new spaceships.
The Progress space truck was to deliver over 2.6 tons of cargo to the International Space Station, including water, food, oxygen, fuel. The accident occurred on August 24 when, 5 minutes and 25 seconds into flight, the Soyuz rocket experienced a third-stage engine shutdown and crashed in the Altai Mountains.
The local department of Emergencies Ministry quickly cordoned off the area where the satellite was thought to have hit the ground.
In an interview with the Voice of Russia Roscosmos spokesman Alexander Dvurechensky said the rocket apparently blew up already in space and the fragments burned up on reentry, which means that whatever had remained of the vessel's toxic fuel never reached the ground.
The August 24 mishap is already the fourth space failure in Russia in the past twelve months. Back in December, three GLONASS satellites used for navigation plunged into the Pacific Ocean. In February, a satellite belonging to the Defense Ministry ceased functioning properly. And on August 18, the state-of-the-art Express-AM4 telecommunications satellite was lost after its launch onboard a Russian Proton-M carrier rocket from Baikonur.
The satellite was later found on a wrong orbit but its further use is out of the question. The overall cost of these failure is estimated at over $500 million, but experts say the lost Express probe alone could have cost $660 million.
The loss of the Glonass satellites led to the ouster of Roscopsmos chief Anatoly Perminov who was replaced by Vladimir Popovkin. The recent loss of the Progress space truck was the first to happen to Russian cargo spaceships in the last 30 years.
The cause of sudden shutdown of the third stage engine is seen by some experts in the sorry lack of qualified professionals working in this country's space industry. Says cosmonaut Alexander Alexandrov:
"We have a clear lack of qualified workers and engineers taking over from the older generation of professionals. That's why we have proposed a new system of personnel training where fifth-year students would start getting hands-on experience at our space industry enterprises."
Experts say that the astronauts now manning the ISS - three Russians, two Americans and a Japanese - can survive for other two or three months on the supplies they have. On September 8 three of them plan to return back to Earth and copsmonaut Georgy Grechko is sure that they have nothing to worry about:
"The guys now working up there have nothing to worry about, because it was the carrier rocket that went wrong, not the landing module they will pilot back to earth."
The next mission to the ISS, slated for September 22 will apparently go on schedule with Roscosmos and NASA all set to keep using the Soyuz carrier.
Source: RIA Novosti
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