MOSCOW, February 3 (Itar-Tass) – Next manned spaceship in the Soyuz family will start off towards the International Space Station May 15, Alexei Krasnov, the chief of manned space flights at Russia’s Federal Space Agency /Roscosmos/ told Itar-Tass Thursday.
“The launch of the Soyuz TMA-04M ship with the Expedition 31/32 crew aboard has been scheduled for May 15, while the Soyuz TMA-22 ship is due to return to the Earth with members of Expedition 29/30 April 15,” Krasnov said.
This means that the three crewmembers making up Expedition 30 – commander Daniel Burbank, who is a NASA astronaut, and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, both of them flight engineers – will have to stay in orbit for an extra month and a half.
“There’s nothing special in a delay of the kind,” Krasnov said. “Expedition 29/30 crew was initially supposed to have a brief mission /of only 120 days/ since its start into orbit was delayed for two months after the crash of the Progress cargo craft last August.”
“But now this very crew will spend almost six months at the station, like all the previous crews,” he said. “The Soyuz ships have a serviceability resource of 200 to 220 days and that’s why there are no grounds for concern.”
Roscosmos officials discussed the decision on the launch of the Soyuz TMA-04M with their partners in the ISS project earlier in the day and the latter “treated the problem with understanding because technology is technology.
The date of the launch of a second ship, Soyuz TMA-05M, with the crew of Expedition 32/33 is due to be announced next week after the issue “is aligned with the launch of a third Japanese cargo ship of the HTV family,” Krasnov said.
“One thing is clear now, namely, that the Russian manned ship will start off earlier than the Japanese cargo craft – most probably in mid-July,” he said.
Krasnov also said the next Russian Progress cargo carrier is due to start off April 20. As for the preparations for launching the European ATV cargo craft, all the works are proceeding in accordance with the schedule and it will be launched at the beginning of March.
The U.S. commercial ship Dragon will most likely be launched at the end of March.
Roscosmos had to make changes in the program of manned spaceship launches after an auxiliary system malfunction was found in the Soyuz TMA-04M’s descent capsule during tests in a pressure chamber at the factory of the Energiya space corporation.