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Russia has given its space chief a series of huge raises

Roscosmos Head Dmitry Rogozin is seen before Russia-China talks at the Moscow Kremlin.
Enlarge / Roscosmos Head Dmitry Rogozin is seen before Russia-China talks at the Moscow Kremlin.

Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

Nearly four years have passed since Dmitry Rogozin became director general of Roscosmos, the state-run corporation that manages the country’s human and civil spaceflight programs, rocket production, and space technology development.

Roscosmos is a sprawling entity, with about 170,000 employees at its various companies, and it is effectively charged with carrying on the legacy of the once-dominant Soviet space program that launched the world’s first satellite, first astronaut, and more than half a dozen space stations.

However, under Rogozin’s tenure, Roscosmos has seen its fortunes diminish. There have been public embarrassments aplenty. For example, after he previously mocked NASA for not having its own means of transporting its astronauts into space, Rogozin was forced to eat his words following SpaceX’s Crew Dragon flight in 2020.

In December, a state-aligned newspaper published a devastating essay on the performance of Roscosmos since Rogozin took over as its leader in May 2018. It characterized a wasteful, increasingly decrepit enterprise where almost no money is being invested into the present or future. Instead, the focus seems to be providing high-paying jobs for a handful of technocrats, with Rogozin at the top.

The article cited “serious leadership weakness” at Roscosmos and said the country’s once glorious space program is “rotting from within.”

For all of this, however, Rogozin’s salary has increased substantially during his time at Roscosmos. His salary information comes from Transparency International and is based on conversion rates at the beginning of each year. During the most recent year for which salary data is available, 2020, Rogozin was paid $1.3 million—and this does not include perks of the job, such as four vehicles, real estate holdings, spousal pay, and possibly off-the-books income. Before his imprisonment, Russian critic Alexei Navalny released an investigation of Rogozin and the corruption at Roscosmos that delves into some of these benefits.

Rogozin has seen a stunning rise in his fortunes since coming to Roscosmos. Before his move, he earned about $100,000 per year as deputy chairman in the Russian government. In 2018, his salary jumped to $513,000, and in 2019, it went up to $639,000.

By way of comparison Bill Nelson, the administrator of NASA, which has a budget several times larger than that of Roscosmos, has an annual salary of $185,100.

Rogozin has no special qualifications to lead Roscosmos that might justify such a salary. Like the author of this article, Rogozin graduated from journalism school. (Hey, I like space, too. But I’m not sure I’m qualified to lead a multi-faceted space corporation.) However, Rogozin does have one ace in the hole—he is a close and faithful political ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The really depressing aspect of this is that Russia’s once remarkable space program is now running on fumes. It has excellent engineers and technicians but pays them poorly. There are no funds to clean up or improve degraded facilities. But for those at the top of the rocket? Life is sweet.

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