Roscosmos losing space market share

A recent series of technical problems has hit the reputation of Russia's State Corporation for Space Activities (Roscosmos). Besides, the company blames tough foreign competition, weak ruble and limited access to modern technologies due to Western sanctions for failing to implement the export plan for 2017.

Russia's space programme is seeking to repair its reputation for reliability after a failed launch, says Bloomberg. In October, a Russian-American crew was forced to abandon their mission immediately after liftoff due to a failure of the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle boosters. Last week, a critical defect was also discovered on a launchpad of Russia's newest cosmodrome, Vostochny. Besides, a mysterious hole was found in the Soyuz spacecraft while it was attached to the International Space Station (ISS) in September.

In recent years, Roscosmos's lucrative launch business has faced unprecedented foreign competition: companies from all over the world now use cheaper alternative rockets to put satellites into space. The agency is also likely to lose some revenue when its seven-year monopoly on ferrying people to the ISS comes to an end. Since NASA wrote off its own space shuttles in 2011, Russia has earned some $2,6 billion for carrying American astronauts and equipment to the space station. However, Boeing and Elon Musk's SpaceX aerospace company are beginning to deliver astronauts to the ISS under NASA's Commercial Crew project next year. Although Roscosmos has a contract with NASA until February 2020, the US space agency will stop paying for seats on Soyuz if the Commercial Crew programme goes to plan, said NASA Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier.

Aide to President of Russia Andrey Belousov and Head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin. Photo:

In addition, Roscosmos was accused of financial violations earlier this year. In June, Head of Russia's Audit Chamber Alexey Kudrin reported finding such violations in Roscosmos' books. ''Several billion have been spent, basically stolen, that we are currently investigating,'' confirmed Kudrin in an interview on 25 November. ''Roscosmos is the champion in terms of the scale of such violations.''

Meanwhile, according to Roscosmos' annual report released on Friday, the corporation failed to implement its 2017 export plan, naming Western sanctions, the ruble depreciation and price dumping by Elon Musk's SpaceX among the reasons for the failure. ''The reasons for the deteriorated competitiveness of Russian space technology in the world market are the obstacles to fitting Russian spacecraft with high-quality imported equipment because of the Western states' sanctions policy as well as ruble's drop in value against global currencies,'' reads the report. Nonetheless, Roscosmos intends to improve its performance proceeding with import substitution in the sector and reducing transaction costs.

By Anna Litvina