Vitaly Lopota, newly appointed manager of Russian space manufacturer RKK Energia, has promised that the firm will carry out all its contracts relating to work with NASA, following "crisis management" at the firm sparked by the dismissal of former president Nikolai Sevastyanov.

Lopota made his remarks at a 31 July extraordinary shareholders meeting that elected him to replace interim president Alexander Strekalov, who took over from Sevastyanov on 22 June.

Lopota said that the firm, based in Korolev near Moscow, had accrued crippling debts in the two years that the company had been headed by Sevastyanov, who had been under strong pressure from the Federal Space Agency to go.

The firm's debts have risen from Rb3.9 billion ($153 million) to Rb7.8 billion in two years.

Yuri Semonov, the company president before Sevastyanov, said debt was under 30% of turnover during his tenure but has since risen to 97%.

Net profits rose in 2006 by 320% to Rb509 million, while revenues rose 38% to Rb8.7 billion.

Despite the talk of crisis within the firm, it is unlikely to be allowed to go under. The Russian state has a 38.22% share in Energia, and while this does not technically amount to a controlling stake, Energia staff say that unofficially it does. Other major shareholders are Razvitye Investment (17.25%), various private investors and the company's staff.

Nikolai Moiseyev, chairman of the Energia board, denies that the Russian government intends to change the company's status as a joint stock company.

"This would be legally and technically impossible. There are no such plans," Moiseyev said on 31 July.

Energia produces the Progress supply ships and Soyuz spacecraft that supply the International Space Station, as well as being a partner in the Sea Launch project. The Russian Space Agency and NASA signed a $760 million deal in 2006 for Energia to build Soyuz and Progress craft to supply the ISS.

Source: Flight International