Proton rocket

Russia Space Sector Damaged by Focus on Quantity, Not Quality

Posted by Doug Messier on November 2, 2012, at 5:19 am

Jim Oberg penned a detailed account for Aerospace America of the problems affecting the Russian space program, which has seen a perilous decline in quality in recent years resulting in numerous launch failures. It seems that at least part of the problem has resulted from an inspection process that has shifted from ensuring quality to increasing quantity.

“The current quality assurance system was created in Soviet times,” the source explained. “Quality is controlled at all stages of launch vehicle, upper-stage, and spacecraft production and assembly. It is the plant’s technical control department and military representatives, that is to say representatives of the armed forces in civilian organizations, that give the go-ahead for the finished, assembled product to be shipped to the spaceport.”

The difference today is that these former military inspectors are now paid by the civilian companies. So the greater the amount of hardware shipped, the better their relations with their management, and the bigger their bonuses will be. Thus they have become reluctant to make a fuss if a fault is found with a rocket or satellite. Instead, the source reported, “everything is settled internally.”

“It is simply impossible to tackle this job in task-force format,” the source believes. It would be ineffective, creating yet another management structure and spreading responsibility for quality control “even more thinly,” he said. The recommendation also is unworkable, he continued, because it does not explain where to get the required staff of hundreds of trained experts — the kind of workers that “virtually every company is now short of.”

Read more: Russia Space Sector Damaged by Focus on Quantity, Not Quality | Parabolic Arc.

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