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First launch of upgraded Soyuz spacecraft may take place March 16, 2016

March 23, 2015, 12:52 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The manufacturer plans to increase the solar cells’ power capacity and equip the spacecraft with new close-up, docking and attitude control engines

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MOSCOW, March 23. /TASS/. The first upgraded version of Russia’s Soyuz-MS spacecraft may be launched to the International Space Station in a year from now, a source in the space rocket industry has told TASS.

"According to early estimates, the first launch of upgraded Soyuz may take place on March 18, 2016," the source said.

TASS has no official confirmation of these plans.

According to earlier reports the first launch of an upgraded Soyuz with a crew of Russia’s cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka and NASA’s Jeffrey Williams on board was scheduled for May 30, 2016. Syrgey Ryzhkov and Andrey Borisenko, of Russia, and Robert Kimbrough, of the United States, are the standby crew.

The Soyuz spacecraft’s manufacturer, space rocket corporation Energiya plans to increase the solar cells’ power capacity, and equip the spacecraft with new close-up, docking and attitude control engines, which will make it possible to approach and dock to the ISS even in case of one of the engines’ failure, and to guarantee normal re-entry and descent with two defunct engines.

The spacecraft will be equipped with advanced communication and direction-finding systems. The spacecraft motion control and navigation systems will undergo the greatest changes. The new version will be equipped with GLONASS sensors. During the parachute descent phase and after the descent module’s touchdown the GLONASS/GPS coordinates will be transmitted to mission control via the satellite search and rescue system Cospas-Sarsat.

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