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You're reading: Medvedev angered by failed Russian space launch

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revenues, Russia’s space industries continue to rely on outdated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.

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