On a lighter note: premature Proton lift-off might mean one in the gulags for someone

by | Jul 5, 2013 | commercial launch services, On a Lighter Note, Russia | 0 comments

You could say that it is back to the good old/bad old days (depending on your point of view) of the old Cold War-era Soviet management-style after it was revealed that the Russian authorities are now engaged in a “hunt for the culprits” with respect to the launch failure of the Proton M/Blok DM-03 launch vehicle which destroyed three Glonass navigation satellites on 2 July.

A formal criminal investigation has been announced by the Baikonur Prosecutors office.  “The investigative department of the Russian Investigative Committee at the Baikonur complex has opened a criminal case on this incident over evidence of a crime, put forward in the Russian Criminal Code Article 216 Part 1. The Baikonur prosecutor’s office is overseeing the investigation,” the statement said. 

With respect to the cause of the launch failure, according to Interfax, the apparent RD-276 engine failure (of six) not withstanding, latest theory is that the Proton rocket was launched before it was actually ready and that the premature lift off (0.4s early) caused the rocket to believe that its first stage engines did not have enough thrust. To save the pad the rocket’s on board systems thus directed it away before the rocket broke up. The launch was insured for third party liability, but most of the toxic propellants were ignited with little to clean up after the event.

If Russia’s President Putin’s administration follows Stalin’s quality control improvement methods as a template (Putin is known to be an admirer of Stalin) no doubt those found guilty of having a hand in this failure will, after a show trial, be sent for a stay in one of the Siberian gulags -that traditional destination for offenders against the Soviet state in days gone by. 

The Russian rocket design genius, S.P.Korolev, (the man behind Sputnik and Gagarin’s Vostok flights) found this out for himself during his own gulag “holiday camp” stay after he fell from favour during the Stalin era. Happy days are here again!

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