Three ISS crewmembers may return to Earth Sept 16

MOSCOW, August 29 (Itar-Tass) —— Thee members of the current crew working aboard the International Space Station (ISS) can return to Earth on September 16, the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said on Monday, August 29.

Initially, the Soyuz TMA-21 spaceship with three ISS crewmembers was scheduled to land on September 8, but the abortive launch of a Progress transport ship on August 24 necessitated adjustments in the schedule.

Roscosmos spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov said the landing of the ship with Andrei Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyayev and Ron Garan would be postponed for a week.

As for the trip of the next resident crew to the ISS, it will take place only after the launch of the next transport ship, i.e., not earlier than late October.

“The final date of the landing and launch will be approved depending on the findings of the emergency commission [which is investigating the accident],| Kuznetsov said.

A source in rocket and space industry said earlier that the ISS crew has sufficient supply of oxygen, food and other materials.

Currently, there is a crew of six working aboard the ISS: Andrei Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyayev and Sergei Volkov of Russia, Ronald Garan and Michael Fossum of the NASA, and Satoshi Furukawa of Japan.

This year’s fourth Russian Progress transport ship that blasted off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on August 24 failed to reach the target orbit.

“According to preliminary information, during the launch of a Soyuz-U carrier rocket with a Progress M-12M transport ship aboard on August 24, the engine malfunctioned in the third stage on the 325th second, which resulted in its emergency deactivation,” Roscosmos said after the accident.

A source in rocket and space industry said that “after 350 seconds of the flight a drop in pressure in the fuel tanks was registered, after which contact with the spacecraft was lost”.

The transport ship was to deliver more than 2,6 tonnes of supplies, including food, water, fuel, equipment, and presents, to the International Space Station (ISS).

Space Troops spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Vitaly Vyatkin quoted Space Troops Commander Oleg Ostapenko as saying that “the abortive launch of a Soyuz-U carrier rocket with a Progress transport ship from Baikonur has not affected the preparations for the launch of a Soyuz-2 carrier rocket with a GLONASS satellite from Plesetsk scheduled for August 26.”

This is the fourth transport ship launch this year. The fifth one is scheduled for autumn.

Initially it was planned that after the end of U.S. space shuttle flights, Russia would send 4 manned and 6 transport ships to the ISS annually, but rocket and space industry specialists said the sixth transport ship might be launched to the ISS early next year.

“This year Russian ships, the European ATV, the Japanese HTV and the last shuttles brought all the necessary supplies to the station and there is no need to send one more transport ship at the end of the year,” the Mission Control Centre said.

However no postponement has been officially announced so far.

This is the second abortive space launch in Russia over the past seven days. On August 18, the telecommunication satellite Express-AM-4 was lost.

On February 1, a Rokot carrier rocket launched from Plesetsk failed to put the military satellite Geo IK-2 to the designated orbit.


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