Russia promised to maintain transport to the International Space Station after a cargo spacecraft crashed yesterday, forcing a likely postponement to the next manned flight.
Russia will probably delay a manned flight planned for Sept. 22 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to October as the cause of the malfunction is investigated, Interfax reported, citing an unidentified person with knowledge of the matter. The Soyuz TMA-22 craft is due to bring replacements for some of the six astronauts currently on board the space station.
Roskosmos, the Russian space agency, said it had ordered launch officials to prepare “additional proposals to support the International Space Station and fulfill Russian obligations to maintain its functioning,” in a statement posted on its website today. Tougher controls will be in place, it said.
Russia provides the only way for U.S. astronauts to travel to the station following a decision to end the almost 30-year- old space shuttle program this year, with the last flight having taken place in June.
The spacecraft suffered a malfunction in its booster rocket, Roskosmos said. It crashed in the Altai Republic, north of Russia’s border with China, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the closest residential area, according to Interfax.
It was carrying around 2.6 tons of supplies, including green apples, lemons, garlic, books, presents, fuel, medicines, and personal hygiene items, according to state-run RIA Novosti news service.
Russia’s space industry suffered a blow last year when a Proton-M rocket failed to deliver three navigation satellites into orbit for Glonass, a rival to the U.S. Global Positioning System. In response, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev fired the head of the space agency earlier this year.
Last week, Russia lost its most powerful telecommunications satellite, Express-AM4, after a faulty launch, setting back the country’s efforts to promote wider availability of communications services.
“The problem is that Russia’s space industry hasn’t produced anything new and is continuing to use old technology, which leads to such consequences,” said Yury Karash, a member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics.
Still, yesterday’s crash is the first since Progress flights started in 1978, he said by telephone in Moscow.
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