By Paul Goble
An investigation into the failure of the Progress MS-04 rocket at the end of last year, one that has already uncovered massive diversion of funds and the substitution of cheap imitation materials for other more valuable ones that could be sold, has forced Roskosmos to recall all the rocket engines to the factory for extensive testing.
According to Aleksandr Sharkovsky in “Nezavisimaya gazeta” today, these problems “bear a systemic character,” that is, they may affect far more than just these launch vehicles and thus force a pause of some time for Moscow’s space program and possibly part of its nuclear triad as well (ng.ru/economics/2017-01-26/2_6912_proton.html).
“Prosecutors, FSB officers and the Investigation Committee” have been brought in to try to answer “the eternal Russian questions: who is guilty and what is to be done?” the Moscow journalist says. What they will find and who will suffer the consequences remains to be seen.
Initially, it appeared that Roskosmos and its factory managers would get away with at most a slap on the wrist, Sharkovsky says. After all, rockets fail a certain percentage of the time. But now that it has been discovered that managers substituted cheap components in order to sell for their own benefit the expensive ones specified in the contract, that is certain to change.