Energia Chief Dismissed Amid Differences with Roskosmos

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  Space News Business

Energia Chief Dismissed Amid Differences with Roskosmos

By SIMON SARADZHYAN
Space News Correspondent
posted: 31 July 2007
03:42 pm ET








MOSCOW







The head of Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, one of Russia’s flagship space contractors, is being forced out some two years after he was installed amid controversy




at the government’s behest




.



Nikolai Sevastyanov, president




of Energia, has landed in hot water with Russia’s Federal Space Agency, Roskosmos, over what officials here characterized as baseless statements regarding plans for lunar and Mars exploration, including tourist trips around the Moon. Energia, based in Korolev just outside of Moscow, is Russia’s lead contractor on the international space station and has close ties to Roskosmos. The company builds the Soyuz-TMA and Progress capsules that ferry crews and cargo, respectively, to the space station and also manufactures rocket and satellite hardware.





Energia shareholders




met




July 14 to hear




Sevastyanov and other top managers present the company’s 2006 financial results and accounting information, only to reject both and schedule another meeting




July 31 to elect a new president, according to a July 16 statement posted on Roskosmos’




official Web site




. Neither the Roskosmos nor the Energia Web site, which carries the same press release, specify what these results were.

The federal government can fire and hire Energia’s president




because, according to an earlier Roskosmos press release, it controls




38.22 percent of the company’s




shares via the space agency and other state entities, and has secured support of minority shareholders who control another 12.6 percent of the




stock. Energia’s 2006 fourth quarter




report




identifies the largest non-government shareholders as of last August as




:




the




Razvitye investment company, 17.36 percent; and a company




called Lider,




6.99 percent.



Roskosmos’ July 16 statement mentioned




Sevastyanov by name but did not identify him as president of Energia.




Sevastyanov’s name has




vanished from the list of




top managers on Energia’s own




Web site. That




list




identified Alexander Strekalov, a famous cosmonaut and head of Energia’s




Experimental Machine-Building Plant, as the company’s acting president




.



Calls to Energia’s press service the week of July 16 went unanswered




and Sevastyanov could not be reached by phone.








Igor Panarin, the press secretary for Roskosmos, was vacationing




the week of July 16








.

However, a Roskosmos official said




in a July 18 phone interview




that




Sevastyanov’s public statements outlining ambitious space exploration goals put him at odds with the agency’s president, Anatoly Perminov.





“Sevastyanov has lost touch with reality; he has been making such outlandish statements, such as that Russia will send manned missions to the Moon and then to Mars,” said the official, who asked not to be named.




“Sevastyanov has been speaking on behalf of Russia and the space industry in spite of the fact that only Anatoly Perminov, director of the federal space agency, can do that




.




Such statements have created confusion and Perminov has been showered with inquiries both from press and other sources. These statements have begun to confuse even our foreign partners.”



The official cited as an example Sevastyanov’s vows to send paying customers on excursions around the Moon.

The official was not specific, but the U.S. space tourism firm Space Adventures recently announced plans to send tourists on lunar flybys in Soyuz vehicles. In addition,




Energia’s 2006 fourth quarter report made reference to company plans for building lunar and Mars excursion capsules.

A medium-level official at Energia confirmed in a July 16 phone interview




that




Perminov




personally has called for Sevastyanov’s ouster.

Energia’s board of directors met




June 22 to suspend Sevastyanov and appoint Strekalov acting president of the corporation




, according to the Energia official,




who spoke on condition of anonymity




.



The official said Perminov paid a




visit to Energia’s




headquarters




June 25 to explain why he wanted




Sevastyanov removed




.




The official – who attended that




meeting – said Perminov told the top brass of the corporation that he was




fed up with Sevastyanov’s




vows to launch manned missions to the Moon and Mars.

Sevastyanov “has indeed been guilty of announcing global projects, be it Mars or the Moon, for which neither we nor Roskosmos had a budget for,” the Energia official said.



Perminov said during the meeting




that tensions between him and Sevastyanov




had been escalating since January and admitted that he had made a mistake when supporting Sevastyanov for president




in 2005, according to the Energia official. In May 2005, Perminov personally pushed for Sevastyanov, then the little-known head of Gazprom’s satellite telecommunications company, to replace longtime Energia Director General




Yuri Semyonov




in spite of




resistance from




the company’s




top brass.



The official said Perminov has proposed that Energia




shareholders




consider electing Vitaly A. Lopota, head of St. Petersburg-based Central Scientific Research and Development Institute of Robotics and Technical Cybernetics,




as Sevastyanov’s permanent replacement.



An employee of this institute declined to comment when reached by phone




July 16. Calls to




Lopota’s office went unanswered.