Space News Interviews Alexander Seliverstov, Khrunichev General Director

Khrunichev is one of Russia’s best known and largest space hardware manufacturers. It is best known as the prime contractor of Russia’s Proton heavy-lift rocket and majority shareholder of International Launch Services, the U.S.-based company that sells commercial Protons. But Khrunichev is also a major producer of space station hardware and has a small satellite production line for telecommunications satellites.

Khrunichev General Director Alexander Seliverstov addressed Proton’s status and Russia’s new Angara rocket with SpaceNewsstaff writer Peter B. de Selding.

Read the interview with Alexander Seliverstov here.

Space News Interviews Alexander Seliverstov, Khrunichev General Director

By Peter B. de Sekling

Proton anomalies in the past 2-3 years have disquieted the market. You are Proton prime contractor. Is there a common theme to these anomalies? If so, what needs to be done to eliminate them?

There was a common theme in that we failed to meet our customer requirements and expectations.

For each of the failures, we identified specific corrective actions which have been implemented for all subsequent missions. In addition to the specific corrective actions, there are also a number of measures we are implementing to improve the overall quality and reliability of the Proton Breeze M vehicle going forward.

First, we initiated a second round of reviewing the entire vehicle and reclassified a number of elements as “critical items”.  Under our quality control system, items which are classified as “Critical” are subject to more rigorous oversight during the manufacturing process and more stringent inspection.  This effort has been completed.

We also increased the frequency and scope of quality audits at the main Khrunichev factory and all associated branches. Summaries of these audits are being provided to our customers and insurers.

We strengthened our telemetry analysis group whose job is to review post-flight telemetry, conduct trending and statistical analysis and provide predictive assessments.

We are also performing a comprehensive study focused on the Breeze M Upper Stage to identify improvements to the design, manufacturing and testing to increase overall reliability.

Lastly, Khrunichev is establishing more comprehensive and frequent re-training and re-certification programs that exceed Russian industry standards and has significantly expanded purchasing and installation of new automated equipment and tooling that will ensure consistency and lower the chance of technician error in the production, assembly and test of the Proton launch system.

I am confident that these changes will increase the reliability of the Proton Breeze M vehicle going forward.

Anomalies have also affected the Rockot small-satellite launcher. How do you see the current status, and prospects, for Rockot?

We have a pretty busy schedule as we plan to conduct 2-3 launches of Rockot later this year. The international market for light Launch Vehicles is not as large as the GEO/GTO launch market, but we do see good market prospects for the next 4 -5 years. Eurockot, our joint venture with EADS Astrium, is performing well even with entrance of Vega in the market.

What percent of Khrunichev revenue is derived from commercial  International Launch Services (ILS) and Rockot export missions?

It is relatively well known that as of lately the Russian Government has increased its spending on space-related programs, and as a result commercial sales through ILS and Eurokot now represent less than 50% of KhSC annual revenue. Having stable government customer enabled us to maintain optimum production / output levels, and attract qualified personnel even in light of considerable demand fluctuations on the commercial marketplace.

What is your impression of the SpaceX Falcon 9 business model of few subcontractors, most everything done in a single factory and the resulting low prices advertised?

For Khrunichev, over 70 percent of the components of the Proton vehicle are manufactured at the facilities which are part of Khrunichev Space Center. However,  rather than everything being done in a single factory, our production is spread across several different factories that specialize in particular areas of expertise; for example, engines and propulsion systems, or machined components, among others.   We believe that this is an efficient and effective way to operate.

Does Khrunichev need to take steps to meet the future challenge posed by SpaceX?

For the time being SpaceX appears to represent a more significant challenge to Arianespace rather than to KhSC, since Falcon 9 capability overlaps more with that of Ariane 5. Proton remains more competitive in the heavy-lift market segment.  At the same time Khrunichev always needs to stay in step with current market trends to remain competitive.  We do this by providing reliable, quality launches at a fair price and terms which meet customer needs. Over our 20 year history with ILS in the commercial market, we have continuously upgraded the vehicle to meet evolving customer requirements.  We have increased the lift capability of the Proton vehicle from 5.0 metric tons to over 6.15 metric tons to GTO within the last ten years.  This can be further augmented with flexible mission designs for example, the SSTO mission design which provides over 200 kg above the typical GTO mission performance.

We are currently implementing an upgrade to the vehicle performance which will provide an additional 200kg lift capability to GTO, to be initially flown in the 2014 timeframe. We are also developing a 5 meter fairing to accommodate taller and larger payloads including large stacked configurations.   We are currently offering this capability for flights beginning in 2016.

Europe has decided that its next-generation rocket will carry only one commercial satellite to orbit at a time for GTO launches, which is what Proton does most of the time. But you have also been moving on Proton Duo. Is a dual-launch capability worth the investment for Khrunichev for GTO missions?

In our case this capability doesn’t require considerable investments as Proton is already a very flexible solution and has the ability to economically launch not only heavy spacecraft on a dedicated basis, but also dual launches without any additional investment.   Dual launches have been successfully demonstrated on Proton many times, primarily on Russian Federal missions.  This dual launch capability allows us to provide an economical launch solution for the lighter spacecraft mass range in addition to our dedicated heavy lift offering.

A recent example was the the Proton launch in July 2011 which paired the commercial SES-3 mission with the Kazsat-2 spacecraft.  This mission also demonstrated another valuable capability of Proton as we were able to use the re-startable Breeze M upper stage to place one spacecraft into GTO while taking the other spacecraft all the way to GSO.  This can be of particular advantage to our customers who have spacecraft using electric propulsion, as it can significantly reduce the orbit-raising time from months to days..

There was a recent announcement of an Angara vehicle shipping to Plesetsk and preparing for a 2014 inaugural flight. What is the status of Angara, and when should we see the first launches of its GTO-capable version?

The Angara development has reached the flight test stage. The first stage has been successfully flight demonstrated on the KSLV program from the Naro Space Center in South Korea. The focus is now on finalizing the launch site in Plesetsk.

The Angara 1.2 vehicle was shipped to Plesetsk in late May which will allow adequate time for extensive testing and interface verification efforts being performed prior to the planned launch in the first half of 2014.  The Angara 5 vehicle is expected to launch later in 2014.      

What is Angara’s performance from Plesetsk?

The Angara 1.2 will have the capability to launch 3.7 metric tons and the Angara 5 will have the capability to launch 5.4 metric tons to GTO from the Plesetsk launch site. It is just a beginning – Angara performance will increase from these estimates.

Should we look at Angara as replacing Proton at Baikonur by 2020?

There is no absolute set date for Angara to replace Proton in the commercial market.  Proton commercial launches will continue from the Baikonur Cosmodrome for the foreseeable future.

Any decision on offering Angara launch services at the commercial market will be made only following the completion of the Russian Government Flight Testing and Qualification Program.

Khrunichev has a telecommunications satellite capability. Is this a priority development for your company? We haven’t heard much about this of late.

In comparison with our launch business, satellite manufacturing is a relatively small business, which targets customers looking for a small spacecraft for GSO or LEO. Still, we do continue to support this capability in a very competitive environment, both in Russia and in the international market.

Khrunichev and ILS Mark 20 Years Making Commercial Launch History at the Paris Air Show 2013

Le Bourget, France - International Launch Services (ILS) and Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center (KhSC) conducted a media briefing during the 50th Paris Air Show, where 144 countries exhibited and over 350,000 visitors attended.  The joint briefing focused on the KhSC and ILS partnership over 20 years serving the commercial launch industry.  The discussion also centered on quality measures, Proton enhancements and new developments. Both Mr. Alexander Seliverstov, director general of KhSC and Phil Slack, president of ILS, provided a summary of the venture, then invited questions from the international media.

A Sustainable 20-Year Partnership
The 20 year ILS anniversary is marked by the establishment in 1993  of Lockheed-Khrunichev-Energia International (LKEI), the joint venture established to exclusively market the Russian Proton launch vehicle, later named International Launch Services. Bringing ILS into the KhSC fold–a longstanding leader in the advancement of global space programs–resulted in the “best of both worlds” combining the legacy of one of the world’s largest space production centers  with the talent and experience of the ILS team.

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Gerald L. Gordon

“Your effort is the standard for U.S.-Russian economic cooperation and is a tremendous example for the growing commercial space market and other industries. The ILS- Khrunichev partnership also is an excellent example of globalization. In conducting almost 100 Proton launches for companies and agencies around the world, ILS and Khrunichev have facilitated economic growth and a higher standard of living for billions of people.”

Mark Warner

“I congratulate ILS and Khrunichev on this milestone in commercial space launches, and pioneering a market through this unique venture. The ILS-Khrunichev partnership remains one of the most successful ventures between Russian and American companies of its kind.”

Tim Kaine

“The marriage of these two entities in today’s global economy has set the standard for American-Russian space cooperation. I commend ILS and Khrunichev for its vision in providing a state-of-the-art launch service operation that is dedicated to performance, excellence and customer satisfaction.”

Bob McDonnell

“I extend my sincere congratulations to International Launch Services (ILS) of Reston, Virginia, and Khrunichev State Research and Space Production Center (Khrunichev) of Moscow, on the 20th Anniversary of the Proton vehicle’s commercial introduction to the market and comprehensive launch services offered in this successful U.S.-Russia venture. This anniversary marks a great milestone in the continued partnership between the United States and Russia in offering launch services to the commercial satellite and telecommunications industry.”

Gerry Connolly Testimonial

“I appreciate the significant contributions ILS and Khrunichev have made significant to the local economy, the global economy and the space industry by providing timely and reliable access to space.”

Phil Slack, ILS President, and Barry Duvall, President of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Sr. Vice President and General Counsel for ILS upon the presentation of the letter of support for the 20 year ILS/Khrunichev anniversary and partnership.

Virginia Secretary of Commerce, Jim Cheng and Bob Sledd, Senior Economic Advisor to the Virginia Governor, present a letter of support and congratulations on the ILS and Khrunichev 20th anniversary of the commercialization of the Proton vehicle at the 50th Paris Air Show on June 18, 2013.

Khrunichev on display at Le Bourget

Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center (Khrunichev) together with other space enterprises is located in the Russian pavilion at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, which opened on June 17 in France. The Khrunichev Center exhibit is part of the joint exhibit of the Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos.

Khrunichev Center greeted both professionals and the general public during the Paris Air Show, to showcase its core activities in the field of space products and services. The exhibit includes a multi-media display on the development, production and operation of launch vehicles, boosters, liquid rocket engines. small spacecraft as well as large scale models of the Proton, Rockot and Angara launch vehicles. Significant space in the exhibition center includes is also dedicated to models of “Breeze-M”, “Breeze-KM” boosters and other rocket engines produced by the Khrunichev Center.
The exhibit also celebrates a significant milestone in Khrunichev history; 20 years ago Proton rocket was offered commercially to the international market through Khrunichev subsidiary, International Launch Services (ILS). Throughout this timeframe, Khrunichev has been active and highly successful in the global launch services market, where its customers and partners include leading national space agencies and organizations, all major global telecom operators, as well as satellite manufacturers.

Janet Howell Testimonial

“The development of the commercial Proton launch vehicle was a historic step in the economic relationship between the United States and Russia, and it has continually set the standard for Russian-American space cooperation”

Dan Goldberg

“Telesat has worked side by side with ILS and Khrunichev on 9 Proton launches. Their landmark collaboration has supported the wide-spread success of Telesat enabling us to meet the expanding needs of our customers. We congratulate everyone at ILS and Khrunichev on 20 years together and offer well wishes for a successful future.”

Khrushchev Space Center Named Best Young Employees of 2012

KhSC’s Youth Council announced the results of the annual Best Young Employee contest for 2012.

Twelve KhSC employees representing Salyut Design Bureau, Space Rocket Factory (RKZ) and “Khrunichev Telecom” who scored the most points in the qualifying stage of the contest entered the final part of the competition. Young professionals addressed the panel chaired by the Deputy Director General for Personnel E.M. Karachenkov. The finalists spoke about their accomplishments and results for 2012.

As a result of the secret ballot the first place was awarded to Alexander N. Solovyov, an engineer from Salyut Design Bureau; second place to a Salyut Design Bureau process engineer Olga V. Nikolaeva, and the third place – Lylia R. Begisheva, designer from Salyut Design Bureau.

Incentive prizes were awarded to: Ksenia N. Boldyreva, a software engineer from “Khrunichev Telecom”;  Salyut Design Bureau designer Julia N. Gerasimova, and an RKZ engineer Mikhail D. Romanenko.

Seven young business leaders competed for the title of “KhSC Best Young Manager”. Selection panel for this category was headed by Deputy Director General for Research and Development,  V.N. Ivanov.

At the end of participants’ presentations the panel chose the best by secret ballot. First place went to the DB Salyut Unit K212 Section Chief, Denis V. Kolesnik; second place – Denis E. Zharkov, deputy production manager for RKZ shop 21; and the third place was shared between Andrey V. Ignatov, senior foreman at RKZ and the head of Section 840 at “Khrunichev Telecom”, Dmitri A. Zabegalin.

The winners will be awarded cash prizes, as well as recommendations for promotions.