MOSCOW, November 17. /TASS/. Crew members of the next expedition to the International Space Station, aimed at testing modified Soyuz-MS manned spacecraft, have been approved without the consent of the prime developer, Russia’s rocket and space corporation Energia, a source in the space industry said on Monday.
“The head of (the Russian space agency) Roscosmos ordered to implement the decision by the intergovernmental commission to assign the crew, which the RSC Energia representative did not accept,” the source told TASS.
RSC Energia, the developer and manufacturer of Soyuz-MS spacecraft, suggested sending experienced cosmonauts, who had made several flights, to test their new equipment in 2015. But the crew had earlier been assigned and already started preparing for the mission, the source said. Russia's cosmonaut training center decided it was unnecessary to make changes, as it would mean the need to review the approved crew members for several years to come.
The decision by the intergovernmental commission assigning the crew was signed by the chief of the Yury Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Yury Lonchakov, and the director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute for Biomedical Problems, Igor Ushakov, the source said, adding that the opinion of the RSC Energia representative was not taken into account and he did not sign the document.
RSC Energia suggested that Russian cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri, who had made five spaceflights and led the first mission of the Soyuz TMA-M spacecraft, the previous modernized version of the ship, should be assigned instead of cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, who had no experience. Pavel Vinogradov, who had flown into space three times, was proposed as a flight commander instead of Andrey Borisenko, who had been in space only once.