"Clipper" Supporter Gets Clipped Himself
Blame it on "financial idealism."
That's the word from the new head of RKK Energia, the Russian
company that produces the bulk of spacecraft used by that country,
following the ouster of the company's former chief Tuesday.
Reuters reports new company president Vitaly Lopota -- voted in
by shareholders earlier in the day, to replace Nikolai Sevastianov
-- immediately called for Energia to enter "emergency
administration." That's a last-ditch effort to stave off possible
Energia (the company's full name is Energia Rocket and Space
Corporation) is the primary Russian contractor for the
International Space Station, as well as a large supplier of
spacecraft and rockets used by the Russian space agency, Roskosmos,
and other customers.
The impact on Roskosmos remains unclear.... but it's apparent a
growing rift between Sevastianov and the space agency was a
motivating factor behind his ouster.
Sevastianov, who led Energia since 2005, was a strong supporter
of the proposed "Clipper" multi-use space vehicle. First announced in 2004, the
spacecraft was Energia's offering in a competition to replace
the Soyuz space capsules used by Russian cosmonauts since the late
Roskosmos cancelled the bidding for a new manned
spacecraft in July 2006, however. A pitch by Sevastianov in April
for a new space transport system, which he said could eventually
lead to industrial development on the moon, also fell on deaf ears
within the agency.
Lopota -- who was nominated for the lead spot at Energia by, you
guessed it, Roskosmos -- indirectly took his predecessor to task
"We intend to introduce emergency administration for the
corporation, because the financial idealism that existed here has
led not to flights to the moon, but to bankruptcy," Russia's main
television channels reported Lopota saying.
State-owned television station Vesti-24 added to the clamor,
stating "Sevastianov himself said the main reason for his sacking
is the Clipper rocket system. He tried to be too independent from
Roskosmos. The new chief promises to establish closer
Lopota told viewers one of his priorities was "to preserve the
unique professional school the corporation possesses." In comments
sure to sting some at NASA, Lopota also noted Energia's importance
to spaceflight today.
"Today RKK Energia is the only organization in the world which
stays in orbit 24 hours a day," Lopota said. "The entire world's
space exploration industry depends on it today."