Vladimir Putin’s rocket man in charge of making the Russian president’s space race dreams a reality has died.
Vladimir Nesterov, who developed the country’s first rocket design since the Soviet era, the Angara, passed away aged 74.
His cause of death has not been publicly disclosed by officials.
Putin has long hoped the rocket will help Russia reach the Moon again and was used in October to launch the Kosmos 2560 military satellite.
But Nesterov resigned as head space rocket system developer in 2012 after two satellites exploded in a botched launch of the Proton-M rocket.
He continued to work in his capacity as chief engineer on the development of Angara.
In 2014 following the first successful launch of Angara, Nesterov fully left the agency as he was accused of allegations of fraud and embezzlement.
He was criminally charged six years later with misappropriating more than £57 million from the state.
Investigators claimed that a year into his tenure as the head of the Khrunichev Center in 2006, Nesterov allowed American firm Space Transport Inc to sell shares to Russia, which his agency then bought back at a higher price.
The case is still making its way through the courts.
Nesterov is the latest member of Putin’s stratosphere to die this year in somewhat vague circumstances, with four senior Russians dying over Christmas
Alexander Buzakov, head of Russia’s non-nuclear submarine manufacturer Admiralty Shipyards, died aged 65 on Christmas Eve.
Member of parliament and sausage baron Pavel Antov fell from a hotel window and died in India on Christmas Day.
His friend Vladimir Budanov, who had been travelling with him, died of a reported stroke in the same hotel two days earlier.
General Alexei Maslov, former chief of Russian land forces, also died on Christmas Day.
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