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Russia names new head of country's space program

  |   Oct. 10, 2013 at 5:14 PM
MOSCOW, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Russia says it is replacing the head of its space program, Vladimir Popovkin, with a new space chief who was previously a deputy defense minister.

Oleg Ostapenko was appointed the new head of the Roscosmos federal space Agency by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, RIA Novosti reported Thursday.

Ostapenko, 56, has been tasked with streamlining the country's space program that has experienced numerous setbacks and failed launches in recent years, Medvedev said.

"You've been engaged in the space industry all your life including at the military posts," Medvedev told Ostapenko in a meeting in Moscow.

"Now you are set to be involved with space in a slightly different dimension," he said. "No doubt that this topic is complex and requires greater attention from the state."

Popovkin, who headed Roscosmos since April 2011, left the post under government decree but "with dignity," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in a Twitter post.

"Popovkin went with great dignity. Ostapenko came with great expectations," Rogozin tweeted.

Recent problems in Russia's space industry -- including a number of failed rocket launches -- have been blamed on faulty hardware and poor management, with Russia's Audit Chamber criticizing Roscosmos as ineffective and plagued by management inefficiency and misuse of funds.

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