Moscow – The Russian Space Agency Roscosmos recently announced that the plans to send three crew members to the International Space Station (ISS) had to be delayed from the intended launch date of September 23 to some unspecified future date.
This is rather problematic, since the two Russian Soyuz spacecraft are the only ones that can do the job, and both send people into the International Space Station as well as return them home.
The delayed launch was meant to send NASA’s astronaut Shane Kimbrough, who would be accompanied by two Russian cosmonauts: Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko.
The crew will have to wait to join the others at the International Space Station, perhaps until October — although at least one unconfirmed source claims that it has been postponed to November 1.
The crew is in the last stages of their training at the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan and are part of Expedition Forty-Nine.
What are the problems with the Soyuz spacecraft?
The technical difficulty, although not officially specified, is claimed by an insider source to be a short circuit. The issue was found during tests at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. This news comes just sixteen days after an astronaut and two cosmonauts — from Expedition Forty-Eight — arrived on Earth in Kazakhstan, on September 7.
The returning crew members were the Russians Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin, along with the American Jeffrey Williams. They returned aboard the Soyuz TMA-20M, in what was described as a standard, even picturesque, landing.
Russian spacecraft have suffered from technical difficulties before; although none have been too dangerous, they have worried crew members at the International Space Station and drew attention to the Russian space program, which has been suffering declining quality and management, according to various experts in the field.
“Three crew members were left stranded on the ISS in April after an unmanned Soyuz supply spacecraft spun out of control, losing communications and stalling plans for their return. Weeks later, another Russian rocket carrying a Mexican satellite crashed shortly after takeoff,” stated Michelle Toh last summer for the Christian Science Monitor.
The United States examines alternatives
These technical difficulties, coupled with concerns that Russia is using the money paid by the American space agency, around 70.7 million dollars per seat, to fund programs that could put national security at risk have cause the United States to look for alternatives to the Russian spacecraft in the private sector.
For example, SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance are between the newer options. Currently, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft are the only ones that can do the job, and they’ve been used by the NASA ever since the space agency stopped using their space shuttles.
The remaining three at the ISS: A Russian, a Japanese, and an American
There are currently three crew members at the Space Station, manning it as well as conducting experiments aboard. They are the Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi, the Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, and NASA’s astronaut Kathleen Rubin.
They will have to keep on waiting for the other three newer crew members to arrive and help them with the compound tasks managed at the Station.
Source: Science World Report