Putin Orders Improved Oversight at Russian Space Agency

Posted August 25th, 2011 at 1:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian space agency to improve its oversight of spacecraft production after an unmanned rocket crashed shortly after launch Wednesday.

Thursday's comments were Mr. Putin's first public response to the incident. It was the second failed launch for the Russian agency, know as Roscosmos, in less than a year. In December 2010, a spacecraft carrying three communications satellites crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

In two other incidents — one in February and one just last week — the agency lost satellites by placing them in the wrong orbit.

Roscosmos said Thursday that the launch of a satellite planned for Friday will be postponed until next month so its Soyuz rocket can be inspected.

Meanwhile, an aerial search is under way in Russia's Siberia region for the remains of the Progress M-12M spacecraft that crashed Wednesday in Altai province. The craft was carrying supplies for the crew aboard the International Space Station.

Roscosmos said the Soyuz rocket suffered a failure about five-and-a-half minutes into the flight from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome. The agency said the rocket failed to place the cargo vessel into the correct orbit.

Roscosmos said the accident will not have a negative impact on the space station's crew because existing supplies are sufficient. U.S. space shuttle Atlantis delivered about one year's worth of food and other provisions to the station last month, in the final mission of the U.S. shuttle program.

The retirement of the U.S. space shuttles has made Russian spacecraft such as Progress the main supply link to the station. The next manned mission to the station is scheduled for next month.