One of the key themes of HBO's new Chernobyl miniseries is the Soviet Union's control of information. As the television series shows, the state's warping of reality had very real consequences in terms of lives lost.
The control of information has continued into the modern Russian era, as the nation's state television network is now planning its own series to recount the Chernobyl incident. Reportedly, a central theme of the series to be shown to Russian viewers is that American operatives infiltrated the nuclear facility and orchestrated the disaster. (There appears to be no credible evidence that this actually happened.)
This predisposition to avoid or obfuscate information that could be embarrassing to the Russian state also evidently applies to the aerospace industry, with fresh reports from the country saying the leader of Russia's space corporation, Roscosmos, is limiting the flow of news about spaceflight activities.
According to a report in RIA Novosti, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin recently issued a directive classifying information about the condition of Russia’s orbital satellites as "For Official Use Only." One source told the publication, "The directive covers technical information including launches and functional condition of satellite constellations." (A translation of this article was provided to Ars by Robinson Mitchell).
No more faxes
The order requires that any of the press offices of the various companies that comprise the Roscosmos enterprise must receive approval from Roscosmos itself before sharing any information about satellite launches or failures. "Transmission and distribution of any such information using wireless technology, email, faxes, by mobile or landline telephone, or social networking is now banned," according to a second source.
It's not entirely clear what may have prompted the missive from Rogozin, who has had a controversial tenure as head of the Russian space agency and has recently resorted to making wild promises, such as human landings on the Moon by 2030.
The decision may have come down to some recent problems with Russian space satellites and GLONASS, Russia's version of the Global Positioning System. Two GLONASS-M satellites reportedly failed in 2018, bringing the network perilously close to not having enough coverage for the entire Russian territory.
Roscosmos oversees civilian and dual-use spacecraft for Russia, including its Soyuz program that currently transports Russian and US astronauts to the International Space Station. Russia’s Air and Space forces control military satellites. In his annual report earlier this year, Rogozin said Russia currently has 156 civilian and military satellites in orbit, of which 91 are for civilian purposes.