Rocket chief quits before he can be fired

The head of a Russian rocket-maker has resigned, after two satellites were lost in a botched launch in the latest failure to hit the nation’s space industry.

Vladimir Nesterov, 63, is leaving the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre, which produces Russia’s Proton rockets, after prime minister Dmitry Medvedev harshly criticised the industry.

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The failure of part of a Proton rocket caused the multi-million pound loss of Indonesia’s Telkom-3 and Russia’s Express-MD2 satellites last week, according to Russia’s space agency. Telkom-3 was the first satellite Jakarta had bought from Moscow.

“We are losing our authority and billions of roubles,” Mr Medvedev said last week. “We cannot stand this any longer.”

Hobbled by a lack of cash and brain drain, Russia’s space sector is struggling to restore its former prestige after a string of mishaps, including a failed mission to return samples from the Martian moon Phobos. Deputy premier Dmitry Rogozin blamed bad management and a lack of fresh talent at Roskosmos.