Find a Security Clearance Job!


Russian and Soviet Space Agencies

For nearly 30 years the USSR was the most prolific builder and launcher of artificial satellites in the world, accounting for 68% of the 3,400 international space missions conducted from 1957 to its dissolution at the end of 1991. The sheer magnitude of this effort led to a highly structured, albeit Byzantine, system of space program development, resource allocation during the Soviet era and funding today, and implementation. Early plans to transform the Soviet space infrastructure into a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) family of space programs failed to mature, and the Russian Federation, via the Russian Space Agency (RKA) and the Russian Military Space Forces (VKS), which were both founded in 1992, inherited the responsibility for maintaining a diverse constellation of approximately 170 operational spacecraft and the industry behind it. A CIS Interstate Space Council still exists and sets budget allocations and priorities but in practice it is subservient to the Russian space program. Today the Russian, Federal Space Agency controls much of the space effort along with the Russian Space Forces.

A government mandate ordered the Russian Space Agency to incorporate the aviation industry within its framework in 1999. It was renamed the Rosaviakosmos. During the administrative reforms of 2004 responsibility for the aviation industry was transferred to the Federal Agency on Industry (Rosprom). The newly-named Federal Space Agency Roscosmos) was dedicated solely to space activities and operations. Anatoly Perminov was appointed head of the agency.


By Charles S. Sheldon II[1917-1981], was Chief of the Science Policy Research Division of the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service


1. Early Interest

Other sources have traced the evolution over the centuries of man's interest in the universe beyond his Earth and his gradual recognition of the nature of the problems to be overcome in entering this 1arger environment and how this might be accomplished within the bounds of human science and engineering. (1)

A quasi-scientific description of solutions was provided by such writers of a century ago as Jules Verne in France (2) and Edward Everett Hale in the United States, (3) using the medium of fiction. In the first quarter of the present century, three outstanding scholars analyzed and experimented with rockets and space techniques to merit the labels of fathers of modern space programs. These were Robert H. Goddard in the United States , Hermann Oberth of Germany and central Europe , and Konstantin Tsiolkovskiy of Russia .

Of these three, Tsiolkovskiy was probably the first to receive widespread and official recognition for this genius, and chronologically, his work predates that of the other two men, although language and cultural barriers meant the writer of Tsiolkovskiy had little Impact outside what is now the Soviet Union . Today he continues to be a national hero in his home country. The Tsiolkovskiy medal is awarded for outstanding contributions to space progress, and the home town of Kaluga where Tsiolkovskiy lived and worked has a space museum.

By the 1930’s, private societies in a number of countries, especially in the U. S. S. R. (GIRD-Gruppa Isutchemya Reaktivnovo Dvisheniya) Germany (VfR-verein fur Raumschiffahrt), Britain (BIS- British Interplanetary Society), and the United States

*Dr. Sheldon is chief of the Science Policy Research Division, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress.

(ARS—American Rocket Society) were experimenting with rockets, and writing papers on space travel. The most aggressive support and conversion of rocket work to meet practical applications came m Germany where the Army appointed Captain Dr. (and later Major General) Walter Dornberger to head this effort. From the VfR, he drew interested technical support, and his young chief engineer was Dr. Wernher von Braun (4) It was this team which eventually produced the V-2 rocket of World War II, the vehicle which also became the first significant tool for exoatmospheric research in the United States , the Soviet Union , France , and the United Kingdom . Modifications of the V-2 especially were important to early Soviet military missilery, while several U. S. rocket systems clearly show the same ancestry.

Dr. Dornberger, Dr. von Braun, and several hundred of the top rocket engineers of the German program came voluntarily to the advancing U.S. forces in Europe , or were acquired at the end of the war under Operation Paper Clip. Soviet forces, meanwhile, overran the principal test station on the Baltic at Peenemiinde, and later, underground factories in Silesia . They picked up more hardware and test equipment, and some technicians, but fewer of the top group of engineers. The Western allies also acquired in territories they overran, near the English Channel , complete and partially assembled V-2's which they stockpiled for experimental use. Apparently the Soviet Union in the postwar years resumed serial production of the V-2.

It should be emphasized that the Soviet Union had a strong rocket program of its own well before any technology was picked up from Germany No nation made more effective use of tactical rockets in combat during World War II than the U.S.S.R. Also, there is an extensive technical literature throughout the 1930's largely coming from the Gas Dynamics Laboratory in Leningrad in support of understanding rocketry.

The United States had its own rocket efforts in the Army and Navy, and later the Air Force, with such outstanding centers of effort as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and the Naval Ordnance Test Station, China Lake , California . The German Paper Clip scientists were first at Fort Bliss , Texas , and later at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville , Alabama . Other work was pursued in private industry under Government contract.

The full details of the corresponding Soviet effort are obscured by their penchant for secrecy, but the broad outlines have been revealed in summary histories. One can sense the barest beginnings of an international competition in the early years after World War II. From

the debriefings of Dr. Wernher von Braun, the United States was presented with fresh ideas on how rockets could be made to fly across the Atlantic Ocean carrying weapons, although Dr. Vannevar Bush was able to point out a number of reasons why the concept was impractical at that time. (5) The Germans also described permanent manned space stations in Earth orbit serving a variety of scientific and military purposes. These plans were brought to public attention in understandable form by such means as illustrated articles in Colliers

magazine in the early 1950's. By this same time, the world community of engineers interested in space had organized the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and at its meeting came the first reports that the Soviet Union was designing orbital spacecraft, and even was planning a very large ship to carry men to the Moon. In the United States by the end of the 1940's, rival projects at the study level were underway to explore construction of satellites for military purposes in all three of the armed services. These plans did not proceed beyond the study phase, and indeed, conservative elements of Government and the military greatly restricted discussion of spaceflight lest the Congress react negatively to such "foolishness". Although the Soviet Union was relatively quiet in any public statements, it seems to have accepted at a high level of Government at a much earlier stage that space could be a practical endeavor worth supporting.

Organization of the Soviet Effort for Space

Another portion of this report will treat organizational matters in greater detail. It suffices here to note how, well after the fact, it has come to Western attention that the Soviet Union in about 1953 created a permanent Commission on Interplanetary Travel, its nearest early equivalent to the United States NASA of 1958. Although the details are lacking, it seems almost certain that within a year of that organization, the broad outlines of the Soviet space program which were pursued for at least the next five to eight years were mapped out.

(CPV-That is the 5th and 6th five year plans 1951-1955 & 1956-1960 fiscal planning with special orders issued for the SS-6 ICBM, Sputnik starting in the middle of the previous five year plan [1953]. That again culminated in the middle of the next five year plan with the SS-6 ICBM introduction and Sputnik-1, Sputnik-2 and Sputnik-3’s launches and subsequent Luna’s launches.”)

("According to James T. Westwood, senior consultant at Military Science and Defense Analytics, Unionville VA, in 1978, while employed as a senior special research analyst for one of the three-letter national intelligence agencies, he discovered and soon crystallized into application a novel, original technique for interpreting and predicting all of the military and space programs of the now former Soviet Union with consistent accuracy and reliability. There came from this, numerous applications and non-surprises, e.g., that the ballistic missile programs, with their space rockets off-shoots (to coin a phrase), were arguably the most reliable and revealing among the hundreds of armor, aircraft, ship, artillery, etc. military hardware and operations programs- In a recent interview with this author, Westwood says that “ CIA failed again in a systemic and incredible manner ever to be able to reliably predict the strategic behavior of the former Soviet Union in terms of "reverse analysis," to wit, reading the tea leaves from the native, bureaucratic Soviet perspective --planning and projecting on the same basis and by same method as did the former USSR. This was, he said, the "great plan," the GOSPLAN the national planning scheme of the former Soviet model. ” - CPV )

A clear decision was made to apply military technology to the development of space.

References and Sources

Federal Space Agency (Russian)


1. Von Braun, Wernher and Ordway, Frederick I. III, History of Rocketry and Space Travel. New York ; Crowell, 1966: Ley, Willy, Rockets Missiles, and Space Travel. New York : Viking Press. 1958: Emme, Eugene M., History of Space Flight, New York : Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1965.

2. Verne, Jules, From the Earth to the Moon, 1865: Round the Moon, 1870.

3. Hale, Edward Everett, The Brick Moon, Atlantic Monthly, November 1869 – February 1870.

4. Dornberger Walter, V-2. New York : Viking Press, 1954.

5. Emme Eugene M., Op. Cit, p. 108: Dr. Bush testified before Congress In about 1947 : "[An intercontinental ballistic missile] is impossible and will be impossible for many years to come. I think we can leave that out of our thinking. I wish the American public would leave that out of their thinking."

*Dr. Sheldon was chief of the Science Policy Research Division, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress.

  • Turf War Seen at Heart of Russian Space Industry Shake-Up By Matthew Bodner Jan. 22 2015 21:51
  • Roscosmos

    Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took industry observers by surprise on 22 January 2015 with the announcement that the United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC), a state corporation that manufactures space equipment, would be merged with Roscosmos, the federal agency that dictates and enacts space policies. While the new agency will also be called Roscosmos, it will be headed not by aerospace veteran and Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko, but by URSC chief Igor Komarov, whose last job was in the commercial sector as the head of Russia’s largest carmaker, AvtoVAZ.

    Komarov’s move, and Roscosmos’ liquidation, bear close similarities to the unexpected appointment of a Rostec loyalist to head up major aeronautics company United Aircraft Corporation chief just last week, a move that also sent shock waves across the air and space industry.

    Yury Karash, a space policy expert at the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, noted that Roscosmos’s former division enabled each section to hold the other responsible for the quality of its work. “An independent Russian Space Agency was one bulwark, however shaky, against [corruption], and now that it’s gone,” said Dr. James Oberg, a retired rocket scientist in Houston and long-time follower of the Russian space program. “I fear a lot more beaks will be wet from diverting funds from space budgets,” he said.

    By Matthew Bodner, writing in the Moscow Times Jan. 22 2015, noted that "Under the leadership of Roscosmos’s new head Komarov, an ally of Chemezov, the chances are greater that Russia will forgo extending its participation in international projects like the International Space Station beyond its 2020 deadline and instead go for building a new national space station based on old plans."

    Russia’s space sector had been plagued by complaints of inefficiency, lack of productivity and lack of oversight, following a string of rocket failures and satellite crashes over the last several years causing billions of rubles in losses. The Russian space industry’s proposed consolidation, the government says, will help increase oversight and lower the accident rate.

    United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC)

    Vladimir Putin signed Executive Order On Amending the List of Strategic Enterprises and Strategic Joint-Stock Companies, Approved by the Presidential Executive Order No. 1009 of August 4, 2004.

    Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin confirmed plans on 04 September 2014 to consolidate Russia’s space industry under a single state-controlled corporation within a year. The United Rocket and Space Corporation, to be formed as a joint-stock company, will contain all organizations in the aerospace industry, with the exception of a few defense companies, he said. Plans for the restructuring were first announced in July 2013. Consolidation will help the government pursue a “unified technical policy” in the space sector as well as remove current redundancies and avoid potential ones, Rogozin said, adding that the new corporation would absorb 33 space organizations, including 16 enterprises. Initially 100 percent controlled by the government, the corporation will undergo an initial public offering (IPO) after two or three years, the deputy prime minister said.

    Russia’s federal space agency, Roscosmos, will remain the corporation’s controlling executive body. It plans to increase its personnel from 190 to 450 people.

    The federal government should also take a controlling share in Rocket and Space Corporation Energia as part of the consolidation, Rogozin added. The state currently had a 38 percent stake in Energia, which is the developer of the Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and one of the leading enterprises in Russia’s space industry.

    Russia will create the United Rocket and Space Corporation by February 2, 2014, Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) Deputy Head Igor Komarov said on 19 December 2014. The corporation to be created on the basis of the Space Instrument-Making Research Institute will become a full-fledged legal entity in 2015. Its development strategy consists of several stages. The first stage is consolidation to be completed by April 2015. The second stage is reorganisation: from 2014 through 2017, the corporation will restructure its capacities and create a management system. The third stage is development and growth (until 2020): the corporation will enter international markets and position Russia as a key player and leader in certain areas of space activities.

    The purpose of creating the corporation is to solve the problems facing the Russian space industry, which include delays in the implementation of contracts, technical backwardness of enterprises, and the generation gap.

    President Vladimir Putin on 02 December 2014 signed a decree ordering the creation of the United Rocket and Space Corporation. According to the decree, several federal state-owned unitary space enterprises will be reorganised into open joint stock companies to be fully owned by the federal government. Subsequently each of them will contribute 100 percent of shares minus one share to the new corporation’s authorised capital. The president instructed the government to ensure the implementation of the decree within two years and bring its acts in line with the decree within the next two months.

    On April 28, 2014 a panel discussion was held at Skolkovo on 'Interaction between the rocket and aerospace industry and commercial cosmonautics during the structural reforms to the sector', involving the General Director of the United Rocket and Space Corporation (ORKK), Igor Komarov, and Sergey Nedoroslev, a member of the ORKK's Advisory Council. This opportunity to meet the directors of a corporation that was set up last year, with the aim of uniting the key production assets in the aerospace sector, attracted a huge amount of interest. On 13 March 2015 Russia’s Engineering Union together with Roscosmos and United Rocket and Space Corporation held the first session of the Engineering Union’s Committee dedicated to the space activities and the development of the rocket and space industry. Igor Komarov, the head of Roscosmos, became the chairman of the Committee. Igor Komarov, the head of Roscosmos, said: "The industry has serious goals, and the efficiency and reliability of the products is one of the most important of them. The Engineering Union is an influential organization protecting the interests of the Defense industry enterprises. And the ‘'space” committee is particularly relevant now, during the industry reform."

    The success of the reform, in many aspects, determines the understanding and support of the society's objectives. Therefore, one of the main tasks of the Committee is the clarification of the resolutions that are being implemented, the popularization of the working results of the rocket and space industry enterprises and of space activities in general.

    On 14 July 2015 President Vladimir Putin signed the law establishing a sixth state corporation, Roscosmos, which is expected to improve the management of space systems and strengthen the country’s security. “The federal law aims at improving the management of space activities, preservation and development of scientific and industrial potential of the rocket and space industry organizations in order to strengthen the country's defense and security”, the Kremlin said in a statement.

    The new corporation will also coordinate activities related to the GLONASS global positioning system, and manage and coordinate operations at the Baikonur and Vostochny cosmodromes. Roscosmos Corporation will also be in charge of selection and training of astronauts, as well as research and development work on issues related to human spaceflight, the statement added.

    The new company is based on the Russian Federal Space Agency and the United Rocket and Space Corporation. It will replace the Russian Federal Space Agency which was established 23 years ago.

    Roscosmos will be led by the CEO of United Rocket and Space Corporation Igor Komarov. The Supervisory Board will consist of five representatives of the President, five representatives of the government and the CEO. The law on its establishment was agreed by Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, on June 1, according to the Russian President’s press service statement.

    Five state corporations had been already operating in Russia, such as the Deposit Insurance Agency, Vnesheconombank, the housing and communal reform plan fund, the Rostec industrial company and Rosatom the state nuclear energy corporation. Another corporation, set up in 2007 for the construction of the Olympic facilities and development of Sochi was closed down after the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The former Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies was reorganized into the Rusnano joint-stock company in 2011.

    RSCC and JSC United Rocket & Space Corporation (URSC) signed a cooperation agreement 12 October 2015. It is expected that working together will enhance the efficiency of utilizing the resources of RSCC and URSC in developing and operating state-owned civilian satellite communications and broadcasting systems. The agreement contemplates implementation of the single-contractor principle in projects involving the building, launching, and delivery into target orbit of civilian communications and broadcasting satellites. RSCC and URSC believe in the potential of such activities, considering the need for further enhancement of quality, economic efficiency and competitiveness of Russian space hardware and satellite services, among other things, in the context of economic constraints and the need to address the tasks of import replacement. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said 19 February 2014: "... space-system and spacecraft manufacture deadlines have often been delayed over the past few years. In fact, this has already become a common occurrence. We also fail to implement specific programmes needed to provide the entire range of space-launch market services..... has far fewer orbital spacecraft. In fact, it has several times less spacecraft in orbit than the United States does. Therefore, we are losing the race in such areas as mapping, cartography, remote sensing satellites, navigation, communications, etc. And these are the most profitable civilian space sectors. Today, the Prime Minister has therefore supported the idea of drafting a special Government decision that would stipulate rigid deadlines and penal sanctions for spacecraft manufacturers. This will allow us to meet specific timeframes and deadlines." " ... we link some hopes and our serious expectations with current efforts to establish the United Rocket and Space Corporation because our Soviet-era space rocket industry seems to be rather bloated and technologically backward. Therefore, the United Rocket and Space Corporation has already been virtually established, and its CEO should be appointed soon. This corporation is expected to consolidate our space assets. Here is one example: the United States has four spacecraft manufacturers, while nine Russian companies work in the same field. No one needs this redundancy. On the contrary, it would be better to consolidate these assets, primarily the creative, research and development potential, to re-equip these enterprises and to enable them to manufacture spacecraft for the Russian Federation, and to sell them on a competitive basis." Since 2010, the sea-based spacecraft launch service for Zenit rockets has been funded by Energia’s subsidiaries, beneficiaries of Sea Launch AG that own assets in the Sea Launch project. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said 19 February 2014: "The Government has instructed the Russian Federal Space Agency and the Korolyov Rocket and Space Corporation Energia to submit a joint financial and economic feasibility study of the Sea Launch project.... this project is based in the United States. This means that Russia is unable to launch its own space satellites in line with its national interests through the Korolyov Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, where it has a 38% stake. In effect, we will have to notify US authorities of our military or dual-purpose satellite launches. We consider this situation to be impossible. So this issue is rather complicated.... something is telling me that, if we decide to go ahead with this project, then this platform should not be based in the United States." On 05 October 2015 the Moscow City Court refused to release on bail Vitaly Lopota, former chief of Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, who stands charged with abuse of power, The Investigative Committee found that the top manager violated the law when he provided loans to companies involved in the Sea Launch project. The investigators estimate damages at 41 million rubles ($ 621,800).

    Join the mailing list

    Unconventional Threat podcast - Threats Foreign and Domestic: 'In Episode One of Unconventional Threat, we identify and examine a range of threats, both foreign and domestic, that are endangering the integrity of our democracy'

    Page last modified: 19-05-2016 20:25:48 ZULU