ISS Crew Lands, Partners Announce New Schedule

ISS Crew Lands, Partners Announce New Schedule

Three International Space Station (ISS) crew members have returned home, landing at midnight EDT (10:00 am local time in Kazakhstan) after a somewhat nail biting descent when communications were temporarily lost.

Russian cosmonauts Andrei Borisenko and Alexandr Samokutayev and NASA astronaut Ron Garan returned in their Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft. Everything proceeded normally until capsule separation at 11:33 pm EDT. At that point, Russian Mission Control lost voice contact with the crew. Search and recovery forces in an Antonov aircraft eventually were able to reestablish communications with the crew and reported that they were OK. Landing took place on schedule; the spacecraft landed on its side. The recovery forces are now extracting the crew from the Soyuz capsule.

Earlier in the day, the Space Station Control Board, composed of representatives of all the partners in the ISS program, released a tentative schedule for the next cargo and crew flights to the ISS. The dates are slightly different from what was reported in the Russian media on Tuesday.

The next Progress cargo craft will be launched to ISS on October 30, as earlier announced. The next crew launch, Soyuz TMA-22, will be on November 14 instead of November 12, however. That means docking with the ISS on November 16. The three ISS crew members currently aboard ISS (NASA’s Mike Fossum, Japan’s Satoshi Furakawa and Russia’s Sergei Volkov) will stay until November 22 instead of returning on November 16. That will provide a few days to hand over operations from one crew to the next.

Once they return, the ISS once again will be staffed with only three instead of six crew. The other three – NASA’s Don Pettit, Russia’s Oleg Kononenko and Europe’s Andre Kuipers – will launch on December 26, arriving two days later. That will restore the ISS to a 6-person crew.

NASA’s press release said the dates “may be adjusted to reflect minor changes in vehicle processing timelines.”

The schedule for launching cargo and crew flights to the ISS was disrupted when the Progress M-12M cargo spacecraft failed to reach orbit because of a launch vehicle malfunction on August 24.

The ISS partners had to consider the possibility that the ISS would have to be destaffed temporarily if the Soyuz rocket could not be recertified for flight quickly. A Russian investigating commission concluded that the failure was due to a blockage in a fuel line in the third stage of the Soyuz rocket that was “accidental.” Russia is resuming flights of the Soyuz rocket, which has several variants. One variant is now scheduled for launch on October 1 carrying a navigation satellite. The October 30 Progress launch will be a second opportunity to test the system before committing it to launching crews.

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