UPDATE: House Committee to Hold Hearing on Effects of the Soyuz Launch Failure on ISS

UPDATE: House Committee to Hold Hearing on Effects of the Soyuz Launch Failure on ISS

UPDATE: Adm. Joe Dyer (Ret.), chairman of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, has been added as a witness.

The Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee has scheduled a hearing for next week on lessons learned from Russia’s Soyuz launch failure in August and its impact on operations of the International Space Station (ISS).

The hearing will be on October 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building. Three witnesses have been announced so far and more may be added later. NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Bill Gerstenmaier, Lt. Gen. Tom Stafford (Ret.), and Adm. Joe Dyer (Ret.) are confirmed. Stafford chairs the NASA Advisory Council Task Force on ISS Operational Readiness. Dyer chairs NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel.

The Soyuz launch failure on August 24 doomed a Russian Progress spacecraft that was intended to take cargo to the ISS. Because the rocket is similar to that used to launch crews to the ISS, Russia delayed future crew launches until the rocket could be recertified for human space travel. Russia’s plan is to launch two Soyuz rockets with robotic spacecraft to demonstrate that the rocket is functioning correctly. The first of those successfully launched a Russian navigation satellite on Sunday. The second is scheduled for October 30 with another Progress spacecraft. If that is successful, a launch with three ISS crewmembers is scheduled for November 14.

The launch failure highlighted U.S. dependence on Russia for operations of the ISS. Now that the space shuttle program is terminated, the Soyuz rocket with its Soyuz crew spacecraft is the only way to transport crews to and from the ISS. The Soyuz spacecraft also is used as a lifeboat for the ISS crews, so that even if the shuttle were still operating, crews would only be able to remain aboard the ISS for as long as the shuttle was docked (about two weeks).

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