MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved the creation of a massive new state corporation to absorb the duties of the Russian space agency and the holdings of the United Rocket and Space Corp. (URSC), a move that would eliminate the government entity known as Roscosmos.

URSC is a giant holding company being established to consolidate most of Russia’s government-owned space manufacturing enterprises, including RSC Energia and Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center.
“The number one challenge for the state corporation is to be first. Its a question of raising competitiveness — not only in the sense of gaining market share, but also securing parity and advantage over geopolitical opponents,” the Russian government-run TASS news agency quoted Igor Komarov, the man tapped to head the new corporation, as saying Jan. 22.

Proton rocket. Credit: Roscosmos
Proton rocket. Credit: Roscosmos

Komarov, the current head of URSC, is the former head of AvtoVAZ, Russia’s largest auto manufacturer. Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko will continue to occupy a major role, possibly at the helm of a major industrial enterprise, officials said.

Komarov also said his new company will continue to participate in international space exploration projects as a matter of practicality, the TASS report said. “This will save resources,” which are limited, he said.
Russia’s struggling space industry, which has a seen a number of high-profile failures in recent years, has been in a seemingly perpetual state of reform since the fall of the Soviet Union. The most recent effort saw the creation of URSC last year.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev presented the reform plan Jan. 21, and compared the project to the 2007 creation of state company Rosatom that consolidated Russia’s nuclear industry.

Komarov was quoted by TASS and RIA Novosti Jan. 22 as saying that an outline for merging the space agency with URSC would be presented as soon as the end of the month, designating it a top priority for the industry.

Matthew Bodner is a freelance journalist based in Moscow. He previously worked for The Moscow Times.