The New Method of Russian Mission Assurance

Posted: May 24, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , , , ,

In a court of law, circa 1995, the following was offered as the acid-test of confirmation, substantiation, and verification: if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.  DNA and statistical probability?  Don’t worry so much about that…it’s complicated.

In Russia, in 2011, the test of confirmation, substantiation, and verification it’s this: if the launch is a failure, go stay with the jailer.

While Russia is one of the most corrupt nations on earth, to my knowledge, it is not one of the most inept.

However, when satellites, including Russian satellites, fail to orbit (which they do with unpredictable frequency), can the full authority of the state can be brought to bear against the people responsible for the launch/satellite/mission assurance?

In this case, yes.  The failure was in December 2010: a three-pack of Russian Glonass satellites riding on a Proton.  Of course, the authority being brought to bear is that of the Russian state.

From Ria Novosti:

Russian prosecutors have opened a criminal case on charges of negligence that led to the loss of three Glonass satellites last year, the Prosecutor General’s Office said on Monday.


"Criminal proceedings have been launched against space officials who were responsible for the loss of the satellites," the prosecutors said.

So what exactly is the ‘negligence’ crime being charged?

"A calculation error was made and remained undetected due to organizational flaws in the work to develop and negotiate the technical documentation within the Energia space corporation, and also due to insufficient control on the part of the personnel responsible for the launch," spokesman for the Investigative Committee Vladimir Markin said.

Sounds like Vlad needed to find a fall guy and as such, it would appear a calculation error is now a crime (students everywhere are being read their rights as we speak) as are ‘organizational flaws’ (we all knew that deep down, didn’t we?) and ‘insufficient control’ by the launch team. 

The problem here is that just about every failure ever could be attributed back to one of these “crimes” or a derivation thereof.

Unless the failure is thought to be a real crime, like insurance fraud (and I’d guess the Russian government self-insures), I don’t think these proceedings will have their desired effect.

In fact, criminal proceedings as a form of “mission assurance” are certain to create unintended consequences which are likely to affect schedule and cost. 

Still, in a very special part of Hell, Joe Stalin is probably smiling.


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