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Russian space agency may resume ten-day flights to ISS

Long-term missions to the ISS are to be prolonged to nine months as soon as upgraded Soyuz spacecraft are commissioned in 2015

MOSCOW, December 16, 18:43 /ITAR-TASS/. Russian federal space agency, Roskosmos, may renew short-term ten-day flights to the ISS when a new generation of U.S. spacecraft enters service. On the other hand, long-term missions to the ISS are to be prolonged to nine months as soon as upgraded Soyuz spacecraft are commissioned in 2015, the director of human space flight at Roskosmos, Aleksey Krasnov, told Itar-Tass Monday.

“In the future, when new U.S. manned spacecraft are available, which will obviously not happen until 2017-2018, we’ll be integrating in our flight programmes not only long-term missions but also visiting flights, like those to the ‘Mir’ space station and at the first stages of the ISS construction,” he said.

"The need for brief special purpose flights may emerge when a qualified specialist carries out a programme within ten days or a month and goes back to the Earth with the results,” Krasnov explained adding that in that case the ISS partners would have a wider range of opportunities, now squeezed into a fixed number of long-term flights.

Besides, orbital missions may also be prolonged for the possibly most effective use of the available resources. “We may switch to nine-month flights, as we hope that the new spacecraft, which is now in the upgrade stage [Soyuz TMA-MS], will be able to stay in orbit longer than the current one [Soyuz TMA-M],” Krasnov said.

Long-term flights will be possible three times a year, not four, with short-term flights to be embedded in between with the use of new spacecraft Russia’s ISS counterparts will have at their disposal. Month-long flights will also be possible, Krasnov added.

The first Soyuz TMA-MS flight is scheduled for 2015. This Soyuz version is to have better solar cell panels, modified docking and attitude control engines, which will allow for approaching and docking with the ISS even if one of the engines fails, and ensure re-entry despite any two engine failures. The spacecraft will have modern communication and emitter location systems, as well as command line system - all using satellite data transmission channels. Motion control and navigation systems will undergo the most dramatic overhaul.

On the U.S. side, Lockheed Martin Corporation is developing a new manned spacecraft Orion. NASA is planning to use such spacecraft for expeditions to outer space, in particular to asteroids and Mars but, if needed, they may also deliver crews and other payloads to the ISS. The latter will be primarily the task of the new, commercially developed U.S. spacecraft. In particular, Sierra Nevada is planning to build its Dream Chaser for a crew of seven by 2016. Boeing corporation is also designing a partnership project, its own spacecraft model CST-100.