Russia Sets New Launch Date for Soyuz MS-02, Will Reduce Russian Crews to Two

Russia Sets New Launch Date for Soyuz MS-02, Will Reduce Russian Crews to Two

Russia’s TASS news service reports today that the new launch date for Soyuz MS-02 is November 1.  The launch had been scheduled for this Friday, September 23, but was postponed for technical reasons.  Separately, Russia has decided to reduce the number of cosmonauts it has aboard the International Space Station (ISS) from three to two in order to reduce resupply requirements.

Soyuz MS-02 is the second launch of this new version of the Soyuz spacecraft.  It replaces the Soyuz TMA-M series.  The first Soyuz MS launch similarly was postponed for several days — from June 24 to July 7.  In that case, the problem reportedly was with a new docking system in this variant of the spacecraft.

Anatoly Zak at reports that the Soyuz TM-02 launch delay is due to a short circuit in the spacecraft and engineers are trying to determine the exact location — in the descent module or the instrument module.  Depending on the location of the problem, it could take weeks or months to remedy, or the Russians could substitute the Soyuz spacecraft intended for the next launch, Zak writes.

Today’s TASS announcement did not provide any details.   It quotes an unnamed NASA official at Russia’s mission control center as saying that a formal decision was made yesterday that the launch would take place on November 1.  (It is odd that Russia’s official news service could not get a Russian official to make a statement.)

Whenever it launches, it will take NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and two Roscosmos cosmonauts – Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko — to the ISS.  They will join three crew members already aboard — NASA’s Kate Rubins, JAXA’s Takuya Onishi, and Roscosmos’s Anatoly Ivanishin.

The ISS typically has six crew members:  three from Russia, at least one American, and the other two from the United States or other partners (Japan, Canada, and Europe).  They rotate on 4-6 month schedules, traveling to and from ISS on Soyuz spacecraft, which can accommodate three people at a time.

Roscosmos decided earlier this month, however, that beginning with the launch of Soyuz MS-04 in March 2017 (a launch date that probably now will slip), only two Russians will be aboard until Russia launches its long-awaited science module, the Multirole Laboratory Module (MLM).   It is currently scheduled for launch in December 2017, but the launch date has been delayed a number of times.  Meanwhile, the Russian crew complement will be resized to reduce resupply requirements, allowing Russia to launch only three Progress cargo ships instead of four.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.