- By Kedar PavgiKedar Pavgi is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy.
When space programs have some sort of setback, it’s usually tied to an arithmetic error, or because of the sheer complexity of launching something into outer space. For Russian Federal Space Agency Director Vladimir Popovkin, however, the problems facing Roskosmos lie with the intrigues of his rivals. In an article published by the AFP, Popovkin hinted that the space agency’s recent failures are due to foreign interference. From the AFP:
Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin told the Izvestia daily he could not understand why several launches went awry at precisely the moment the spacecraft were travelling through areas invisible to Russian radar.
"It is unclear why our setbacks often occur when the vessels are travelling through what for Russia is the ‘dark’ side of the Earth — in areas where we do not see the craft and do not receive its telemetry readings," he said.
"I do not want to blame anyone, but today there are some very powerful countermeasures that can be used against spacecraft whose use we cannot exclude," Popovkin told the daily.
Of course, Popovkin may simply be trying to distract the Kremlin as his space agency comes under greater scrutiny after a rough 2011. In April, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin fired the agency’s director after a defense satellite was sent into the wrong orbit. Several months later, a Mars probe got stuck in Earth’s orbit (fragments of the probe are expected to hit Earth on Sunday). The humiliations come as Roskosmos’ importance increases after the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle program. The agency has also been working to launch GLONASS, Russia’s competitor to the GPS used by the U.S. military and consumers.
While there has been some space rivalry in recent years, there haven’t been any known instances of countries directly sabotaging space flights, as Popovkin claims. Once we reach that point, it won’t be long before we hit Moonraker status.