Russia dissolves its federal space agency, what now?

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Photo Credit: Roscosmos / NASA

Russian President Vladimir Putin officially put an end to the country’s Federal Space Agency Roscosmos on Monday, Dec. 28, by signing a decree dissolving the agency. The resolution will go into force on Jan. 1, 2016, when the space agency will be replaced by the Roscosmos State Corporation, which was established earlier this year. What does that actually mean for the space industry?

The change is a part of a reorganization of the Russian space sector that actually started more than two years ago. In August 2013, the United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC) was formed by the Russian government to renationalize the nation’s space sector.

The Federal Space Agency is now merging with URSC to create the Roscosmos State Corporation. Igor Komarov, the former CEO of URSC and the current chief of Roscosmos will lead this new entity.

The new organization will be run as a corporation, one which will control the nation’s entire space industry. It is being carried out to ensure the continuity of powers which will be transferred from the now-dissolved federal space agency. However, the reorganization process itself is unlikely to bring any radical changes.

“The Russian Federation Government has been instructed to ensure continuity in carrying out the powers and functions being transferred to Roscosmos that had previously been performed by the abolished Federal Space Agency, and to resolve financial, support and other issues pertaining to implementation of the Executive Order,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Putin instructed the Cabinet of Ministers to resolve financial, material, technical and other issues in connection with the implementation of his decree. In the near future the government should carry out liquidation procedures, as well as provide the agency’s employees with legal guarantees and compensation.

Putin’s move to centralize Russian space sector is a response to a series of problems that have bedeviled the country’s space industry. Roscosmos is trying to recover from a series of embarrassing setbacks including mission failures, delays, corruption and bureaucratic issues. Some of the more public disasters this year are as follows:

On Dec. 5, the Kanopus-ST satellite failed to separate from its launch vehicle – which resulted in the loss of the spacecraft designed to observe the Earth.

On May 16, a Russian Proton-M booster that was intended to deliver a Mexican communications satellite into orbit, exploded shortly after liftoff (which resulted in the near-duplicate Morelos-3 spacecraft to be launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 421 rocket.

Each failure caused serious delays for various aspects of Russia’s space program. One of the more significant facts that helped lead to this decision – is that Proton-M rockets have suffered four malfunctions since 2012. This streak of failures was a major prerequisite for government officials to start considering reorganization as well as the implementation of reforms for the space sector.

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