Tuesday, September 06, 2011

New station crew could launch by early November

A Russian rocket could be ready to launch a new crew to the International Space Station by early November, preventing the outpost from being left unmanned indefinitely, two American crew members said from orbit this morning.

But an investigation into a failure last month by a similar rocket carrying a cargo spacecraft is still in its early stages, and may not be completed in time to keep the station staffed as it has been continuously since 2000.

"There's a lot of things that have to stack up to make that happen," said Mike Fossum, one of six Expedition 28 crew members living on the station.

Fossum described the launch schedule as very tentative and likely requiring one or two test flights of unmanned spacecraft before humans, including American Dan Burbank, launch again from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Half the crew, including American Ron Garan and two cosmonauts, are scheduled to return to Earth next Thursday (corrected) evening, about a week later than planned.

Fossum and two crewmates plan to return on their normal timeline in mid-November.

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