Center for Strategic Assessment and forecasts

Autonomous non-profit organization

Home / Science and Society / Formation of the innovation system in Russia / Articles
Black holes: what's wrong with the Russian space program
Material posted: Publication date: 31-08-2017
When the government is both owner and major customer of its missile and space businesses begin to operate mechanisms, as contrary to efficiency and common sense.

Manufacturer of carrier rockets "proton-M" and "Angara". Khrunichev (FSUE GKNPTs im. M. V. Khrunichev), part of state Corporation "Roscosmos", suffers financial distress. Company need to RUB 33 billion in addition to the already allocated by the state in the years 2014-2017 65.1 billion rubles. a Few months earlier to be re-evaluated because of the possible marriage was revoked 71 engine for the second and third stages of the rocket "proton-M". The carrier rockets of heavy class in Russia built only "Hrunicheva", and the beginning of operation of the rocket "Angara", created in 1995, has already become a political issue. The easiest of all problems to be blamed on "sabotage", "incompetence" or sacramental "stolen". However, with all the temptations of the easy way ("to strengthen control", "fire", "put") is a false direction. So what happens with the Center. Khrunichev?

Cost inflation

The problem of "Khrunichev" is typical for the entire Russian space industry. Chief among them is cost inflation. If you open the accounts of any company in the industry in recent years, we will see that their revenues have increased significantly in proportion to the growing expenditure of the state space (Federal space program, GLONASS, etc.), it has also increased loan burden. However, the profit for 16 years, grew by only a modest interest, if any, was. Against this background, faulty engines or a penny of the wages of the engineers in the production — has dire consequences.

In such a situation, there are fundamental reasons. First, it failed in 1992-1993, the conversion of military production. Its essence is not to instead of Intercontinental ballistic missiles to start the production of valves or domestic pumps (a company in the industry in Soviet times and so produces a large amount of civilian products). The essence of any conversion is to adapt the plant to work in a peaceful and market conditions to make his work economically viable. Roughly speaking, if the Ust-Katav car-building plant (part of the Center. Khrunichev) and have not learned to do reliable modern trams, it is difficult to expect that the production of engines for space technology, it will succeed. Again, the problem is not specific to plant and not in the company, and the lack of opportunities for the development of the whole industry, in that notorious aggressive institutional environment.

Secondly, it is "bureaucratic fever". When the government is both owner and major customer of its space enterprises, the mechanisms of "administrative market", is often contrary to how the problem of increasing the efficiency and common sense.

It would seem that the same "proton-M" is in demand in the world, hence the efficiency is. However, you should note that the value of its commercial launch today is estimated at $65 million, while the Russian state (Federal space Agency, Ministry of defense), one rocket cost slightly more than RUB 1 billion Seems to make possible. However, in practice this rocket today, but no one will buy the more expensive — to compete with American and European rockets. Moreover, with all the subsidies and, in fact, non-performing loans in state banks, one "proton" is the Russian government (that is actually all of us) to several billion rubles. Therefore, it is good if commercial launches allow you to offset the cost of production of the launch vehicle.

Everything else, the sale of services of "Proton" in the world market carries out not the Center. Khrunichev, and he controlled the American company International Launch Services. It turns out that the manufacturers included in Khrunichev, separated from the results of multiple layers of corporate and government bureaucracy and are not motivated to quality work. By the way, and the enormous disparity in income between engineers and managers is not the result of any specific greed, but the result of bureaucratic hierarchy.

Two families

However, the position of the center Khrunichev is exacerbated by the narrow range of its products. In General, specialization is another characteristic feature of the Russian rocket and space industry, while globally a large and successful space companies are on the path of diversification. In Russia, however, the diversification achieved only at the expense of education on all the companies first United rocket and space Corporation, and already over it — the state Corporation "Roscosmos" trying all these different legal entities and interest groups to coordinate.

The only products of "Khrunichev", which is now regularly flies, is still the same carrier rocket "proton-M". For its commercial exploitation, including the previous modification of the "proton-K", together with the contracts and emergency starts in 1990-2010 years was usually performed seven to nine launches of missiles per year. In this story there were three peak: 2000 — 14 starts (without accidents), 2010 year — 12 starts (one accident) and 2012 11 starts (two accidents).

However, the increasing competition in the global market and the above cost inflation has been exacerbated by the confrontation between Russia and the West. This led to the fact that in 2016 it was launched only three "Proton", and for eight months of 2017 or two (the next launch should take place in September). Clear resulted in additional financial difficulties and the endless requests for help, because the lion's share of the revenue Center. Khrunichev brings it "proton". Although this rocket still have commercial orders, however, it is clear that her time is running out.

In this situation, the main bet is placed on the family of launch vehicles "Angara", which in its heavy variant is to replace the "proton-M", but due to the lighter modifications are intended to increase the demand for missiles "Khrunichev". That's just creating "Angara" since 1995, a display in a batch production it is planned by the beginning of 2020. the root of the problem is that this "Proton" is an Intercontinental ballistic missile UR-500. But the experience of creating from scratch a serial civic booster never had no Center. Khrunichev nor Russia as a whole. The same, incidentally, applies to all other attempts to develop new space technology. As examples of the multi-year epic with the creation of new manned spacecraft in the depths of RSC "Energia" or the new modules for the ISS in the same place.

Thus, when we once again are forced to pay attention to the plight of GKNPTs im. M. V. Khrunichev, it is necessary to take into account the complex nature of the problem. Russian rocket and space industry, all in need of deep healing. Moreover, it needs to create an enabling environment for private initiative. Otherwise, neither overbearing waving a sword or throwing money from a helicopter over the industry leader is not the desired effect.

Pavel Luzin


Tags: Russia , space

RELATED MATERIALS: Science and Society