Medvedev fires space chiefs after satellite crash

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MOSCOW – President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday fired two top space officials and reprimanded the space agency chief after a launch failure caused Russia to delay the deployment of its own navigation system.
This month’s failed launch of three Glonass-M orbiters marked a humiliating setback to the country’s efforts to introduce a global rival to the US Global Positioning System.
A presidential statement said Energia Vice President Vyacheslav Filin and Roskosmos deputy head Viktor Remishevsky had been fired for “the mistakes made in the fuel calculations”. The Russian Proton-M rocket proved too heavy to reach its initial orbit during the December 5 launch and was forced to dump the three high-tech Glonass-M satellites near the Hawaii Islands.
The brief statement said Medvedev had also reprimanded Roskosmos chief Anatoly Perminov and ordered the agency to be more careful in its future work.
“On the Russian president’s instructions, Roskosmos will undertake additional measures to strengthen its performance discipline,” the Kremlin statement said.
The satellites would have completed a system whose research had been started by the Soviet Union in 1976 before being interrupted and then picked up again by the country’s president-turned premier Vladimir Putin.
Russia’s de-facto number one has vowed to place Glonass readers on every car made in Russia by 2012 and hailed the system as an example of how the country can claw back its Soviet-era technological might.
But analysts said that Glonass would more importantly enable Russia to finally target its missiles and other weapons from space — something that other armies using the GPS system have been doing for years.
“This has turned into a political issue because — on top of everything else — it also came in the middle of the START (nuclear disarmament) negotiations,” said independent military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer.
“Russia had been trying to show the Americans that it has this incredible system that proves that it must be treated as an equal — and then all of a sudden this happens,” said Felgenhauer. “Obviously someone had to be sacked after that.”