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Wed, Aug 31, 2011

Russians Delay Next Manned Launch

Roscosmos Says Earliest Possible Launch Date Is Now In October At The Earliest

The Russian Space agency Roscosmos has pushed back the next manned launch of a Soyuz spacecraft following the loss of the Progress 44 cargo ship earlier this month. The unmanned mission failed to reach orbit when the third stage boosters did not separate from the payload, and the vehicle impacted the ground in Siberia.

Manned Soyuz Launch NASA Photo

The next planned mission had been set for September 22nd, but the French news service AFP cites RIA Novosti as quoting Russia's Manned Spaceflight Program Director Alexei Krasnov as saying that "We expect that the next manned launch will take place in late October or early November -- not earlier. That is our plan." He said the return of three of the current ISS crewmembers had also been pushed back from September 8th to the 16th. They will return aboard one of two Soyuz spacecraft docked at the station. Russian news agencies quoted Krasnov as leaving open the possibility of leaving the station unmanned if no replacement crew could be flown to the station.

NASA ISS manager Michael Suffredini said that it is possible to operate the station with no one on board "assuming no significant anomaly."

Roscosmos is in the process of checking all of its rockets after the launch accident August 24th. Similar booster failures have caused the loss of three satellites since December.

AFP reports that both Russian and U.S. Space Officials think that the Soyuz problems can be traced to a faulty fuel pump that is preventing full ignition in the rocket's third stage.



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