Update: The Photo Op From Hell

Keith's note: Rep. Sensenbrenner and his delegation made a scheduled factory visit to view Russian space station hardware today. Unbeknownst to Rep. Sensenbrenner, who had requested that there be no press in attendance, someone at the Krunichev Space Center had the bright idea of letting the press in such that they could get a picture of Rep. Sensenbrenner and his delegation as they admired the on-time, on-budget FGB module. Sensenbrenner wasn't the slight bit interested. Indeed, he wasn't happy at all about being put on the spot.

According to Reuters, Khrunichev's General Director Anatoly Kiselyov told Sensenbrenner that the Service Module would be launched per the recently modified launch schedule. After Sensenbrenner left, according to Reuters, Kiselyov told reporters that without $10 Million by the end of February, he wouldn't be able to meet that same schedule (too bad the reporters wrote both of these quotes down, eh?).

When he later examined the Service Module, Sensenbrenner remarked that he hadn't noticed much progress in the past. Reuters quotes Sensenbrenner as saying that 'the entire [space station] program has been placed in jeopardy" and that the lack of progress on the Service Module "could unravel the whole project". Khrunichev 's Kiselyov apparently wasn't a happy camper and is reported by Reuters to have said that none of this was his company's fault (he's right: Khrunichev builds the on-time FGB) and that he was "not the President of Russia." No mention seems to have been made of the fact that Energiya is actually the contractor for the Service Module - not Khrunichev. What a mess. RIF Watch wonders where the Russian Space Agency's PAO was during all of this.

Russian sources are, of course, trying to do some damage control - but it may be too late. Interfax, a quasi-independent Russian news/PR service, of course, tried to put a happy spin on the whole event reporting only that Sensenbrenner had complimented Krunichev as being a "good contractor" and that Russia was a "good partner". Interfax has not reported on any of Sensenbrenner's less-than-complimentary assessments regarding progress on the Service Module. Interfax also put a happy spin on a meeting between Sensenbrenner, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Bolshakov, and Russian Space Agency Head Yuri Koptev with Bolshakov gushing with commitment and assurances that all was well with the Service Module.

Yuri is due to meet up with Dan Goldin at JSC this weekend. As RIF Watch understands the solution set right now, 4 options are under consideration; 1. Slip the entire program schedule to the right by 6 months and hope that the Service Module will arrive on time. A variant on this scenario would be to slip the schedule and convert the Service Module into a contracted piece of hardware instead of a government-provided item. 2. Procure a second copy of the current FGB and hope the Service Module shows up on time. 3. Procure a US- build Interim Control Module (ICM) and hope that the Service Module shows up on time. 4. Procure a second, redesigned FGB - possibly with US avionics - and with enough of the Service Module's functionality such that the Service Module itself would no longer be needed.

Once more the question must be asked: when faced with obvious solutions, will Dan make the right decision?

More importantly, is the right technical decision also the right political decision?

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on February 19, 1997 4:43 PM.

To Russia With Bucks? was the previous entry in this blog.

Prepared Statement by Dan Goldin Before The House Science Committee is the next entry in this blog.

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