Soyuz MS Launch Officially Postponed; BEAM Gets First Guest

Soyuz MS Launch Officially Postponed; BEAM Gets First Guest

Russian space state corporation Roscosmos formally announced today that the next crew launch to the International Space Station (ISS) is postponed until July 7.  Russia’s news agency TASS reported a delay last week, but then retreated, explaining that the official decision would not be made until today.  Meanwhile, aboard ISS, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams entered the Bigelow
Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) for the first time this morning.

The delayed launch is of the newest version of Russia’s venerable Soyuz spacecraft, Soyuz MS.  It replaces the Soyuz TMA-M series and has improved solar arrays, a new digital computer, and a new docking system, among other upgrades.

The docking system is the problem according to TASS, although Roscosmos did not specify that in its announcement today.  Roscosmos said only that additional software tests are needed to improve safety.

The new schedule calls for Soyuz MS-01 with its three-person crew to launch on July 7 at 04:36 Moscow Time (July 7, 01:36 GMT; July 6, 9:36 pm Eastern Daylight Time).  The three crew members are NASA’s Kathleen (Kate) Rubins, JAXA’s Takuya Onishi, and Roscosmos’ Anatoly Ivanishin.   They will launch on a Soyuz-FG rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.  The launch originally was scheduled for June 24.

July 7 was originally planned for a launch of a Russian Progress cargo resupply spacecraft (Progress MS-03).  That launch will now take place on July 17. 

The return-to-flight launch of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft has been tentatively scheduled for July 6, but clearly could be impacted by these changes.  Neither NASA nor JAXA had made any public announcements as of press time.

Three crew members currently aboard the ISS who are coming home — NASA’s Tim Kopra, ESA’s Tim Peake and Roscosmos’ Yuri Malenchenko — will keep their previously scheduled return date.  That crew, aboard Soyuz TMA-19M, will land on June 18 at 12:12 Moscow Time (09:12 GMT; 5:12 am EDT). 

While the future plans were being finalized today, another ISS crew member, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, entered the BEAM module for the first time.  BEAM arrived at the ISS on the SpaceX-8 cargo resupply mission in April and was expanded to its full size on May 28.  Leak checks have been underway since that time and Williams was given the go-ahead to enter BEAM this morning EDT.  BEAM is a technology demonstration project and will be attached to ISS for two years while crew members occasionally enter it to install or check sensors as Williams did today.

Robert Bigelow, President of Bigelow Aerospace, hopes to convince NASA to use BEAM for conducting a few experiments, but that has not been decided.  BEAM is a small test version of Bigelow’s expandable habitats.  He wants to attach a full-size B330 to the ISS in 2020, called XBASE, but that also is still in the discussion phase.  He envisions a robust space business using his expandable modules as habitats in Earth orbit, on the Moon, and elsewhere.

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.