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


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


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



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


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


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



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


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


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.