Russia delays missions to and from space station
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian news agencies say the country's space agency is delaying both the return of astronauts from the International Space Station and the launch of the next mission to the orbiting laboratory.
The announcements came after last week's failure of the launch of an unmanned supply ship to the space station. The craft Soyuz rocket sending it into space failed after launch and crashed and exploded in a forested area of Siberia.
The news agencies RIA Novosti, ITAR-Tass and Interfax on Monday quoted the head of Roscosmos's manned space operations, Alexei Krasnov, as saying the return of three astronauts from the ISS was being put off from Sept. 8 to about the Sept. 16. He also said the next launch to the space station, scheduled for Sept. 22, would be delayed until the end of October or early November.
Roscosmos spokesman Igor Zatulin said he could not immediately confirm the reports.
Since the end of the U.S. space shuttle program, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft have been the only vehicle to get crew to or from the space station.
There are six crew members aboard the space station. American Ronald Garan Jr. and Russians Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev who have been in orbit since April, were to return to Earth on Sept. 8.
The comments reported by the Russian agencies did not specify why the return mission was being put off. But they quoted Krasnov as saying the next launch would be delayed until one or two unmanned firings could be conducted of rockets of the type used to launch the Soyuz space capsule.
Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin and American Daniel Berbank are the crew for the next launch.
The failure of the Progress cargo ship launch was the fourth Russian spacecraft lost in the past nine months.
In December, a rocket and its payload of three communications satellites fell into the Pacific Ocean after failing to reach orbit. A military satellite was lost in February, and in mid-August the Express-AM4, described by officials as Russia's most powerful telecommunications satellite, was lost.