According To Elon Musk “Great Britain Will Destroy Russia!”, Know How: Russia’s aerospace industry is considered the oldest and at one time, the most sophisticated in the entire world. However, things have been on a nosedive since the current president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, took power in 2012, and it’s about to get even worse as Britain makes a move that Elon Musk warns will destroy Russia.
The United Kingdom joined the United States and the European Union in announcing fresh sanctions against Russia’s central bank. They have prohibited British citizens and corporations from dealing with Russia’s central bank, finance ministry, and wealth funds.
Why are the USA and UK important here specifically? Because they are the homes of Elon Musk and Sir Richard Branson respectively, two of the world’s most important aerospace entrepreneurs. They have to abide by the rules of these sanctions, and that most definitely means no business with Russia or anything from Russia.
Such a restriction is important to note as the Russian space program is the oldest in the world and their vast treasure troves of experience from the Soviet era have been invaluable to SpaceX and Virgin Galactic engineers
We all know about Elon Musk, but let’s recap Sir Richard Branson’s ventures a little bit. Since seeing the Apollo moon landings, Branson has wanted to go to space and launched Virgin Galactic in 2004 to send private individuals into space.
He founded the corporation to purchase spacecraft designed by Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites, the company that constructed the SpaceShipOne aircraft, which won a $10 million award for flying twice to the edge of space in two weeks.
Virgin Galactic then constructed VSS Unity, which had further safety features to prevent repeat mishaps. Unity was first launched into space in December 2018, after Virgin Galactic began testing it in 2016.
Last year, the US Federal Aviation Administration granted Virgin Galactic a license expansion, allowing the business to carry people on future spaceflights, and Richard Branson himself flew into space.
Already the owner of a large conglomerate, he could pool endless resources into making his spaceflight dreams into a reality, and he managed it in the end. Such was only possible as he was closely assisted on the venture by NASA and the British government, both of them becoming stakeholders in Virgin Galactic’s success to various degrees.
Everyone also knows that this is how SpaceX reached the heights it did, and Elon Musk relies on good relations with NASA through SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell. So what’s up with Russia and its storied team of aerospace experts and entrepreneurs?
The truth is that the best and brightest have been leaving Russia due to limited opportunities under the presidency of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
The engineers and scientists who would’ve otherwise been employed at Roscosmos or a private venture are instead working in SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, while the entrepreneurs are setting up shop elsewhere to make their dreams come true, like Mikhail Kokorich.
Russia’s space program is led by Dmitry Rogozin, who is a graduate of journalism and economics. He was appointed as the head of Roscosmos, Russia’s state-owned space corporation in 2018, and is alleged by many to have gotten the position out of loyalty to Putin’s regime.
His tenure as the head of Roscosmos has been marked by showmanship and aggressive publicity, much like Elon Musk. He, however, seems to be acutely aware of his situation even if he may not directly admit it. He was publicly applauding billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos for their efforts in establishing commercial space missions, while openly criticizing Russia’s wealthy, who he said: “prefer to invest in yachts.”
“Our millionaires would prefer to invest in yachts than spaceships,” Rogozin said in his first interview with Western media since taking over as head of Roscosmos. “But maybe kids of current Russian millionaires will be much more wise creatures,” he added.
Rogozin went on to commend the work of Bezos and Richard Branson. “I like what your people are doing — people who spend their own money on things useful for overall society,” he explained. Rogozin also confessed that, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia, which produced the rocket that launched the world’s first space tourist more than 20 years ago, has had little space development.
When questioned about Elon Musk, he responded that he “realizes many of the ideas and thoughts that we wanted to realize, but did not get to because, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, our space program halted for some time,” “We respect him as an organizer of the space industry and as an investor, who is not afraid to take risk,” he added of Musk.
Here it’s important to remember that he has been dismissive of SpaceX at times. We would have proposed a cognitive dissonance at play here, with him having to choose between saying what he feels and what he is directed to say. That would have to remain a bit of speculation for the foreseeable future.
The most recent debacle involving Rogozin though is worthy of mention. In the aftermath of draconian economic restrictions imposed on his own nation, he turned to NASA for assistance.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that message comes after weeks of pro-Putin and anti-NATO propaganda, as well as hostile warnings concerning the International Space Station. “Roscosmos sends written appeals to NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, and the European Space Agency with a demand to lift illegal sanctions from our enterprises,” Rogozin tweeted in Russian.
He went on to say that this is in the best interests of the International Space Station, which he has threatened to destroy. This appears to be a significant policy shift for Rogozin, who has been an outspoken backer, obviously since he is a member of Putin’s political clique, of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine since it began in late February.
His comments drew substantial censure from the entire space community, as well as a public spat with NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. Rogozin seemed to be grappling with the aftermath of the invasion at home.
He’s apparently gone so far as to prohibit Roscosmos personnel from traveling overseas for fear of their abandoning the company permanently. It’s hard to know whether he may have been genuinely interested in helping Russia’s space program take off once more but the problem is far greater than himself.
In 2021, the state-aligned daily MK published a comprehensive and sharply critical piece about the condition of Russia’s space program. During the Soviet period, the Moscow-based daily newspaper MK, originally known as Moscovsky Komsomolets, was the Komsomol’s (Young Communists League) propaganda organ.
Dmitry Popov, who has been with the newspaper since 1992, wrote this piece. Popov has received various official thanks, recognitions, and medals from the Russian government during the course of his career, including a commemorative dagger from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Popov’s judgment is particularly harsh on Dmitry Rogozin. It starts with the assertion that Russia’s space program lacks competent and highly skilled personnel, as well as outdated facilities and equipment and systemic leadership weakness. And that’s only the first sentence.
Popov continues by claiming that Russian space corporations have failed to deliver on hundreds of contracts. He also stated that Roscosmos is having difficulty producing its workhorse vehicles, the Soyuz rockets, and Progress spacecraft.
Popov also voiced anxiety about relying on Germany to assist fuel the Soyuz rocket and the human-launching Soyuz spacecraft. The problem is that the Soyuz boosters’ vernier thrusters and the Soyuz-MS spacecraft’s de-orbit engines employ a unique type of highly purified hydrogen peroxide.
However, supplies of chemicals supplied by a German business named Evonik Resource Efficiency GmbH are required for the production of this hydrogen peroxide in Russia. International sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation have put a stop to these supplies.
The Vostochny Cosmodrome, a spaceport in eastern Russia that has been a priority for President Vladimir Putin, is also discussed in the article. However, under Rogozin’s leadership, the project has been plagued by construction delays and corruption, including theft.
Popov’s overall picture of Roscosmos is one of a squandering, a progressively decrepit corporation with practically little money spent in the present or future.
Instead, it appears that the concentration is on creating high-paying posts for a few technocrats with annual salaries in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Meanwhile, technical professionals who manufacture the country’s rockets and spacecraft earn between $500 and $1,000 per month on average. Our dear viewers, Dmitry Popov’s expose tells the story by itself.
When you compare Rogozin and Roscosmos as a whole to what has been achieved and is achieved by the likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Mikhail Kokorich, there is no competition.
This is just another painful reminder of the need for us to fight for ease of doing business and being free from corrupt political forces.