Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev
MOSCOW — Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday that this week's failed space launch has dented the nation's prestige and that those to blame must be held responsible.
A Proton-M booster rocket launched Monday failed to place two communications satellites into target orbits, a mishap that followed several other botched launches. An official investigation is under way.
Medvedev said Thursday the failure could have been caused by "traditional sloppiness." He says he will chair a government meeting next week to look into the case and name those responsible for the failure.
"We can't tolerate that any longer," Medvedev said at the start of a Cabinet session. "We are losing our prestige and billions of rubles."
Russia's space program has suffered a series of humiliating failures blamed on manufacturing flaws and engineering mistakes. They included the loss of a robotic probe designed to study a moon of Mars that was launched in November and eventually came crashing down in January.
In August 2011, a Soyuz booster rocket similar to those ferrying crews and cargo to the International Space Station failed, raising the prospect of leaving the space outpost unmanned. Russian space officials eventually blamed the crash on an "accidental" manufacturing flaw and checked all rockets for similar problems, and the Soyuz launches resumed.
Those failures followed other botched launches. Russia lost three navigation satellites in December 2010, then a military satellite in February 2011 and a telecommunications satellite in August of that year.
Officials said the failed launches were rooted in the post-Soviet industrial meltdown that has badly hurt a once proud space program, stymying its modernization. Despite a steady increase of funding thanks to oil revenues, Russia's space industries continue to rely on outdated equipment and an aging workforce, and quality standards have degraded.