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Meeting on rocket and space sector development

April 10, 2020, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region

The President held a videoconference meeting on the rocket and space industry’s development.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, good afternoon.

Yesterday we discussed the situation at the leading enterprises in the defence industry. The rocket and space industry is certainly one of the most vital sectors of the national economy as well because it deals with issues that require work that is not interrupted and is carried out constantly.

The intensity of this work has decreased for understandable reasons, due to the pandemic, and today I have gathered you together to discuss how this work is being organised in this context, what measures are being taken to protect the people who work and whose work cannot be suspended, and how you, colleagues, are planning to arrange the work of the entire industry in the medium and longer term, bearing in mind the need to revive it to full capacity – naturally, as I already mentioned, taking into account all the necessary sanitary and epidemiological precautions, both today and in the near future.

I would like to call your attention to the following.

First of all, the manned flight programme remains one of our unconditional priorities. Traditionally, it is one of the Russian cosmonautics’ strong points, and leadership must be maintained here.

This programme largely depends on the creation of a new generation space transport system. Flight tests of the new manned transport ship are planned for 2023 at the Vostochny space centre. Please report to me today what measures Roscosmos is taking to make sure that the launch takes place as planned, on time.

The second point is that Russia must strengthen its foothold in the international launch services market. It is extremely important that our launch vehicles remain competitive and enjoy demand.

An infrastructure for heavy-lift and super heavy-lift launch vehicles should be created at Vostochny as planned. Test flights are scheduled to start in 2023 and 2028, respectively.

The third thing is to employ the possibilities and mechanisms of public-private partnership more intensively to achieve the industry’s goals. You know, PPP is a global practice that enables quick and efficient achievement of results, including developing innovative high-tech projects and commercially successful products.

Today I would like to hear your opinions on how to stimulate such partnerships, what we need to do here, what new formats we need to use to develop them successfully, and how to attract additional investment into the industry.

Now then, let us get down to work. The first speaker is Nikolai Testoyedov, CEO of JSC Academician M. F. Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems.

Information Satellite Systems CEO Nikolai Testoyedov: Mr President,

Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems has organised the implementation of the 2020 state defence order under the limitations caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The necessary number of employees have been allowed to work, and all of them are provided with personal protective equipment.

The schedules of launching the manufactured spacecraft are being carried out in full. In 2020 there were plans for ten spacecraft, and two of them have already been launched, two more are at the launch site, and the remaining are either in storage or are still being manufactured.

In addition, the full scope of the state defence order for this year can also be implemented. Both in terms of the range of items (provided the research and development stages are adjusted), and the scope of work. To do that, data on the adjusted stages from the previous years, 2020 and the partially completed work for 2021 must be included.

Thus, we need the Defence Ministry’s acceptance of work on the adjusted previous years’ stages by the enterprises, the work for the current year and 2021. Work with allied suppliers has been well organised, and there are no problems.

This concludes my report.

Vladimir Putin: Fine, thank you.

Mr Baranov, Progress Rocket Space Centre, please.

Rocket Space Centre General Director Dmitry Baranov: Mr President,

The enterprise is working on fulfilling the 2020 state defence order. During the first week, when certain restrictions were introduced, we had several hundred out of 16,700 people working. We had only the most critical areas of spacecraft operating. Regarding the Defence Ministry products, the work did not stop at all.

Regarding the launch vehicles, assembly work on our main carrier, the Soyuz 2 rocket, was suspended because currently we have around 12 launch vehicles at launch sites, and about 40 launch vehicles are stored at the enterprise. Here we have a certain degree of safety. Nevertheless, we did not suspend work on the testing of already manufactured rockets and annual maintenance because we think this is critically important.

In addition, work on the Soyuz 5 launch vehicle has not been suspended. We understand that this is a head start for a super heavy vehicle, and we have a state contract on Soyuz 5 to be fulfilled by the end of 2022 when we are to manufacture and launch the first vehicle.

We somewhat increased the number of workers last week and now we are approaching about 1,500–2,000 people. We are planning to consider the matter after April 20 and to bring back the entire workforce while observing respective safety measures, of course.

Regarding interaction with the government and the governor, we have no problems. Transport issues and other questions are being settled in an orderly manner, promptly, we are in direct contact.

Concerning launches, we are ensuring work directly at the Baikonur Cosmodrome right now, including yesterday’s launch and a cargo spaceship launch in late April. We are also working with the Defence Ministry at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. This is routine work, and there cannot be any failures.

We will monitor the situation and proceed with the plans. We understand what is to be done in the mid-term. In the long term, it is also clear that the 2020 benchmark must be attained. Let me repeat, we work with what we regard as maximum possible safety measures.

This is the end of my report.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you, Mr Baranov.

Mr Okhlopkov, please, general director of TsENKI.

Andrei Okhlopkov, General Director of the Centre for Operation of Space Ground-Based Infrastructure (TsENKI): Mr President,

We continue working, the company has not suspended its operations, we are continuing our work. Just yesterday, we returned from Baikonur, where a manned launch was carried out under the head of Roscosmos.

We are supporting projects at all spaceports. With due account for lockdown policies, as well as the greater goals we have, our routine work and state defence contracts, we have increased our personnel to 70 percent in production and at the launch sites to ensure the unconditional fulfillment of our objectives.

Thanks to the decisions made by the head of Roscosmos and the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, in the current difficult situation we were able to carry out two launches, and are preparing for a third launch. We have also moved a large number of people and equipment across the border. The projects are being carried out unconditionally and with proper quality.

At the moment, we are working on the Defence Ministry’s assignments at the Plesetsk space centre. We are also working at the Guiana Space Centre. We have evacuated most of the Russian team because our partners there terminated some of the projects. A small group of 21 people stayed with those from NPO Lavochkin to bring the technical equipment to a safe state. From April 27 to April 30, we plan to evacuate that group too, bring them home and into quarantine.

At Vostochny, we have even slightly expanded the project to build infrastructure for the Angara heavy-lift carrier rocket due to the launch site’s isolated location. Thanks to the leaders of several regions, the supply of equipment and the production of equipment for the spaceport have continued without delay or disruption.

Mr President, we will certainly be able to fulfill the assigned task as a system-forming company.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Our colleagues who have just given their reports represent industrial enterprises and groups of enterprises. There are others here who work in this industry directly. At the beginning of our meeting, I had a question for all the representatives of industry here: are there any problems that you would like to highlight? None. Good.

Mr Rogozin, please.

General Director of the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities Dmitry Rogozin: Mr President,

Allow me to begin my presentation on the issues that were outlined in the beginning of this meeting. First, I would like to summarise some of our achievements in 2019.

Last year, we carried out 25 launches of space rockets, which is 25 percent more than in 2018. All the launches were accident-free.

Combat crews of the Defence Ministry also conducted 10 successful launches of the ballistic missiles manufactured at Roscosmos plants.

Thirty-three launches are planned for 2020, including 12 satellite launches under the Federal Space Programme, nine launches of commercial spacecraft and three launches from the Guiana Space Centre.

We have already conducted five launches. The launch yesterday was rather important and complicated because for the first time, we tested a crew-supported clustering of the Soyuz-MS with the Soyuz 2.1a rocket, operating on a fully Russian digital control system. The launch went well.

Due to the coronavirus spread and OneWeb’s bankruptcy, we estimate that at least nine launches are at risk. The launch of ExoMars has already been postponed until 2022. This problem is rather serious, Mr President, because the spacecraft we were supposed to launch from our cosmodromes simply cannot arrive in Russia as Roscosmos is perhaps the only space agency in the world today that continues working. All the other agencies have suspended their operations.

In 2019, Russia increased its share in the medium-lift and heavy-lift launch service market to 41 and 21 percent, respectively.

In order to expand our presence on international markets, we are currently working on cutting our launch service rates by over 30 percent by reducing our non-operating expenses and increasing the company’s operating efficiency.

The pricing schedule we proposed is essentially our response to the dumping by the American companies that are funded by the US budget. If a launch by, for example, SpaceX has a market price of around $60 million, NASA pays 50 to 300 percent more for the same service.

We would like to talk about a number of measures that need to be taken in the near future.

First, the electronic component base for our space systems is produced abroad; therefore, we cannot procure it due to the sanctions. However, Russian microelectronics is making progress, but not fast enough. For this reason, we would like to emphasise this particular industry; we need domestically produced microelectronics.

The second most important point is to introduce mandatory coordination between the Defence Ministry and the corporation on design solutions in building military space vehicles, that is, production cooperation in organising an order for the manufacturing of space vehicles and military systems, and of course, coordination on the pricing of state contracts that the Defence Ministry concludes with our plants as a customer.

Why is this important? Two customers should not order two different types of space vehicles with the same purpose from the same Roscosmos plant. This is why I suggest very close cooperation during the preorder stage. The role of general designers is very important at this point. Together with the Defence Ministry we have started doing this with the space forces at the working level. I think we will soon be signing practical agreements.

I must mention the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our plans and current activities.

First, international cooperation has come to a standstill. The Guiana Space Centre, from which we launch foreign spacecraft on the Soyuz-2 rocket, is almost completely paralysed. The French employees have left the site. Our people have remained to ensure the safe storage and deactivation of the space tugs that were fueled before the launches were cancelled.

Secondly, the suspension of some civilian production lines during the quarantine, and this is where we have the highest number of employees, will compel them to take on additional expenses to pay salaries, maintain production capacity and counter the spread of the coronavirus.

But, once again, many employees at Roscosmos companies continue working. I am referring to personnel involved in Defence Ministry work, round-the-clock operations, test stations for all our advanced rockets that we must submit to testing this year, and of course, the Mission Control Centre, and not only the main one for the International Space Station but other orbital groups as well. Our companies are moving employees using their own transport vehicles and are providing them with medical gear to avoid infection.

This concludes my report.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

I would like to ask Mr Kolmykov, Director General of the Lavochkin Scientific and Production Association, to comment on Mr Rogozin’s report where it concerns his company.

Director General of the Lavochkin Scientific and Production Association Vladimir Kolmykov: Mr President,

Indeed, we are working extensively on the lunar programme. The Luna-25 spacecraft is currently in the assembly and first trial stages. Yes, there are some cooperation problems but we are working on them. I hope that the 2021 goal of launching Luna-25 will be achieved.

Work on Luna-26 and Luna-27 continues as well. We are finishing the contracting process for a government agreement. We are executing an engineering, procurement and construction contract that will be in effect through the launch. Cooperation has been established, and overallwe are fairly confident that the objectives involving Luna-26 and Luna-27 will be met in 2024 and 2025, respectively.

Our association is currently operating in all areas.

Thank you. This is the end of my report.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.

Mr Rogozin, colleagues.

Regarding this part of our work, the situation at Roscosmos is changing. Slowly, but it is still changing for the better. We can see it.

Clearly, the fact that we have to fight the coronavirus is forcing us to make adjustments in our country, the economy in general and Roscosmos specifically.

At the same time, I would like to warn you against the temptation to blame unresolved issues and loose ends – which are still in abundance – on the coronavirus. By the way, this goes for not only Roscosmos but for all manufacturing industries and all sectors. I hope my words will reach the parties concerned.

Now, let us move on to the restricted part of our meeting.


April 10, 2020, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region