TASS: Russia Delays Next Soyuz, Progress Launches

TASS: Russia Delays Next Soyuz, Progress Launches

Russia’s official TASS news agency reported today that the next launches of Soyuz and Progress spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) are being delayed because of problems with the docking system.

Both spacecraft have recently been upgraded to “MS” versions.  The upcoming Soyuz launch is the first of the MS variant (MS-01), while the first Progress MS was launched in December 2015.  

The Soyuz spacecraft has been upgraded several times since it was first launched in 1967.   Soyuz MS replaces the Soyuz TMA-M series.  The MS version has improved solar arrays, a new digital computer, and a new docking system. 

TASS reported today that the launch of Soyuz MS-01 has been delayed from June 24 to July 7 “due to control system flaws that may disrupt the ship’s docking with the ISS.”  July 7 was the date of the next Progress MS launch, which is now rescheduled for July 17.

The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft will take three new crew members to the ISS:  NASA’s Kathleen (Kate) Rubins, JAXA’s Takuya Onishi, and Roscosmos’ Anatoly Ivanishin.  None of the space agencies had made any announcements as of press time. The crew just passed their final exams yesterday.

Soyuz is also the name of the rocket that launches Soyuz and Progress spacecraft.  There are several versions of the rocket, including the Soyuz 2.1b, which launched a GLONASS navigation satellite on May 27.  Russia indicated that there was a third stage anomaly in that launch, but the Fregat upper stage compensated for the third stage under performance and put the GLONASS satellite into the correct orbit.  That problem is unrelated to the just-announced delays in the Soyuz and Progress launches, which are issues with the spacecraft, not the rocket.   In any case, the Soyuz MS-01 launch will use a different version of the rocket, Soyuz FG.

Soyuz spacecraft are the only vehicles capable of taking crews to and from the ISS since the United States terminated the space shuttle program in 2011.  Progress is one of four cargo vehicles used to resupply the ISS.  The others are Japan’s HTV and two U.S. commercial vehicles, SpaceX’s Dragon and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus.  HTVs, which are much larger than the others, are launched once per year.  Progress, Dragon and Cygnus are launched several times a year.

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