NewsFlash: Russia’s Mishap Could Leave US Astronauts Stranded on ISS



The Soyuz's crew capsule, one of three modules that make up the entire Soyuz TMA-04M vehicle,  was scrapped after an accident during testing caused it to spring a leak in one of its descent module's rocket thruster fuel tanks. Now Russia's main space contractor, RSC Energia, is readying the next spaceship on the line, though the issue will cause a lengthy delay.

The faulty Soyuz capsule was slated to carry NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin up to the space station to begin long-duration stays. They were due to replace three of the Expedition 30 spaceflyers currently living on the outpost: NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin.

The Russian spacecraft launch, originally slated for March 29, is now targeted for no earlier than May 15, NASA's International Space Station program manager Mike Suffredini told reporters today (Feb. 2).

"This particular event is very unfortunate, but you know this is a complicated business and things happen," Suffredini said. "To me this is not indicative of some overarching problem at the Energia corporation. I have every confidence that they'll figure out the cause of this and rectify it for the future." 

Meanwhile, NASA is contemplating another delay — in this case, of the unmanned SpaceX Dragon capsule's inaugural trip to deliver supplies to the space station (SpaceX Falcon 9 image above). The private spacecraft was due to make its first test launch to the orbiting laboratory on Feb. 7, but Suffredini said the latest target date is March 20, and even that might be a stretch, as the vehicle still requires more testing and some minor fixes.

Because of the Soyuz issues, NASA and Russia have decided to extend the current crew's mission to keep the space station running smoothly. Those three were scheduled to return to Earth March 16, but now will come home April 30.

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