Facts and speculations about space issues in Voronezh

    The entire previous week was marked by news about the Voronezh Mechanical Plant, engines for Proton, solder, which turned out to be worse than the required one, then more expensive than the regular one. In the media reports, there was some confusion, for example, I first considered the story of the more expensive solder a journalistic mistake. Let's take a little look at what happened, especially since there are insights on the forums, and on Saturday the Voronezh Mechanical Plant, whose engines were withdrawn, was visited by Dmitry Rogozin, expressing his opinion on the open part of the meeting and on his pages on social networks.

    Photo: Roscosmos

    Official information

    In December 2016, the usual firing tests of the second stage engine were carried out, apparently RD-0210/0211 for Proton. The engine worked successfully, but according to the results of the tests after the tests it was found that it used the wrong materials. Initially, the media wrote that cheaper components were used instead of components containing precious metals, but in subsequent materials they clarified that solder turned out to be a problematic element, and, on the contrary, the more expensive grade with precious metals was used. As a result, it was decidedabout checking the engine produced with the replacement of an unknown number of those who have the wrong solder. The FSB, the prosecutor's office and the Investigation Committee are engaged in the investigation, the director of the Vyksa Ministry of Labor formally quit on their own, but due to the “unsatisfactory performance and quality of the products”.

    Engine РД-0210/0211. Photo: Vyksa Metallurgical

    Plant Dmitry Rogozin paid a visit to Voronezh on January 28, he stated in rather vivid terms that he discovered social problems at the plant, finding in them “a source of sloppiness and indifference”, promised to “present all the solders who were responsible for replacing the solder and ensure“ stable orders "the plant itself.

    The trouble does not come alone - the cause of the loss of Progress MS-04 is the destruction of the third-stage engine of the Soyuz-U RD-0110 LV produced by the same Vyksa plant due to a “manufacturing defect”. From the "workhorse" of the Russian space program, the Soyuz and Proton missiles, only the Soyuz 2.1b can fly now, with the RD-0124 on the third stage, also produced in Voronezh, but at a different plant - KBKHA. The piloted Soyuz ships are displayed on the Soyuz-FG carrier rocket, at the third stage of which is the RD-0110, which is under suspicion, therefore rumors about postponing the launch of the Soyuz MS-04 from March 27 to the twentieth of April are not surprising .

    If the named periods of 3.5 months do not change, the Proton will return to flights only in mid-May, which will give an unprecedented break in launches almost a year. Previously, even in the case of accidents with loss of payload, flights were suspended for a maximum of 3-4 months.

    At this official information ends, and begins couch analytics, insiders and conspiracy.


    On the Global Adventure forum there is a user with the nickname "overheating", which seems to be related to Vyksa. I recommend reading the thread of discussion from this post . So, he believes that the reason for replacing the solder is not theft or malice, but a common mistake. On the solder batch the tag fell off, or something was mixed up, or someone was guided by the wrong version of the documentation. A rumor about a departed storekeeper is added here, and the new staff could have made a mess of something. To make it even tidier, the head of RSC Energia Vladimir Solntsev in his commentaryincidentally, it speaks of old frames, which work “not according to drawings, but according to their inner understanding”. To me, the version of the error also seems more likely, do not forget about the razor Hanlon - “the world is not ruled by a secret bed, but by a clear mess.” Naturally, now, after interrogations by the FSB, the prosecutor's office and the Investigative Committee, if someone mistakenly stuck the wrong tag to replace the one that fell off, he is now not recognized for anything. And the promised draconian measures, though like many, should be complemented by other solutions. People make mistakes, always, everywhere and in any branch of their activity. And it is much more important to build a system in which mistakes will be routinely and qualitatively caught, than to organize raids on the guilty. And negligence must be fought not only by increasing control, but by taking care of people and maintaining their motivation. If, as promised by Rogozin, VSW salaries will be higher than the city average; this will make for product quality more than all the investigators combined. For pennies, only indifferent and incompetent people will work, and all smart people will run away first, noting that the responsibility for mistakes and marriage is not compensated for in any way.

    It is curious that forumchan-insider Overheating considers an inadequately strong reaction to an incident. According to him, more serious test accidents (seizure and explosion of the turbopump unit and burnout of the nozzle throat with a sharp deterioration in performance) did not lead to the recall of the entire engine batch. Given that on testing with improper solder, the engine worked fine. Hence, a conspiracy version of intentionally fanning the incident grows in order to transfer the VSW from the GKNPTs to them. Khrunichev subordinate RSC Energia. This version is indirectly confirmed by the fact that NPO Energomash, whose management company is RSC Energia, will take part in correcting problems of the Vyksa project.

    True, these arguments or not, but the affairs of the Center. Khrunichev so-so. The production of Angara at Omsk PA Polet is delayed , the territory of Moscow production will be reduced, cases of embezzlement are instituted at the enterprise , Proton with such idle times and information in the media about quality problems will be even harder to search for commercial customers. A multi-month investigation is better than an accident with a loss of payload, but with carry-over of start-ups, the chances of regaining first place in terms of their number this year are melting. According to the plan, Roskosmos is expected to have 27 launches in 2017 , January is almost over, and by convention, only the launch of the Soyuz ST-B from Kuru can be attributed to the Russian ones.

    Against the background of this story, the December report of Russia 24 about high technologies of space production from the same Voronezh Mechanical Plant looks tragicane.

    But in reality there is no contradiction. Smart machines, laser welding, and cloud 3D design are used, and this is really cool. But the complexity of the space industry means that success determines the weakest production link. And until it is possible to make a system that generates a stable and universally high level of quality everywhere, the missiles will fall due to the departed storekeepers, missed mistakes and other seemingly minor causes.

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