GLONASS Chief Designer Dismissed, Resigns as Director of JSC Russian Space Systems

Yuri Urlichich, JSC Russian Space Systems

[Updated November 23] Yuri Urlichich has been dismissed from his post as general designer of the GLONASS satellite navigation system, according to Russian news media reports.

The decision was made by the Russian military-industrial commission, which is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

Two weeks later, on November 23, Urlichich cited illness and resigned as director general of JSC Russian Space Systems, which contributes to the operation of a number of the nation’s leading space programs in addition to GLONASS.

[Updated November 23] Yuri Urlichich has been dismissed from his post as general designer of the GLONASS satellite navigation system, according to Russian news media reports.

The decision was made by the Russian military-industrial commission, which is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

Two weeks later, on November 23, Urlichich cited illness and resigned as director general of JSC Russian Space Systems, which contributes to the operation of a number of the nation’s leading space programs in addition to GLONASS.

The developments are just the latest that have afflicted the GLONASS program, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) in recent years. Urlichich’s reported dismissal comes against the backdrop of investigations into alleged fraud and corruption, along with political struggles among various officials, agencies, and industrial enterprises.

Last July, police raided offices of Urlichich, his first deputy, and some subcontracting firms as part of an Interior Ministry (MVD) investigation of a $17-million–dollar embezzlement scheme in which JSC Russian Space Systems allegedly siphoned off GLONASS R&D funds through fake orders with phony companies.The company has denied the charges.

Earlier this month, the Interior Ministry accused unnamed officials connected with the GLONASS program of embezzling 6.5 billion rubles ($200 million) of the program’s funds.

Russian space-related agencies have endured turmoil as well. On April 29, 2011, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appointed Vladimir Popovkin as head of Roscosmos, replacing Anatoly Perminov, following a series of launch failures of Russian satellites, including a Proton rocket carrying three GLONASS satellites in December 2010.

Last week, Putin replaced Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov with Sergey Shoigu as the result of an unrelated corruption investigation.

The company’s website describes JSC Russian Space Systems as “the Russian space agency’s headquarters for maintenance, development and use of the GLONASS, including augmentations, end-user equipment and ground control.”

With more than 4,000 employees, Russian Space Systems is the successor of a series of institutes originally established in 1946 to support the Soviet Union’s nuclear missile program. In 2009 it was reorganized as a “joint stock company,” a commercial organization that does not own or operate any state property.

Urlichich has served as general director of what was then called the Federal Unitary Enterprise "Russian Space Equipment R&D Institute” since 2001 and as general director and chief designer since 2004.

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