Soyuz MS-02 launch postponed for technical reasons
The next crewed flight to the International Space Station (ISS), Soyuz MS-02, has been postponed “for technical reasons after tests at the Baikonur Space Center,” according to the Roscosmos State Corporation. The flight was scheduled for a Sept. 23 launch and subsequent two-day rendezvous with the orbital outpost.
This vehicle is the second of the newly upgraded Soyuz MS variant. Soyuz MS-01, which launched on July 7, was also postponed due to a technical issue. In its case, there were flaws in the control system that could have affected a successful docking to the ISS. However, the flaws were fixed, and the spacecraft docked without flaw on July 9.
For Soyuz MS-02, Roscosmos has not officially revealed what the technical issue was. However, according to RIA Novosti, an industry source said a test identified a short circuit.
“Preliminary data revealed that a short circuit occurred while testing the new series Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft, docked to a carrier rocket, at Baikonur,” the source said. “The date of the new launch will be announced later, but the launch is unlikely to take place before the beginning of October 2016.”
Soyuz MS-02, when it does launch, will send Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough to the ISS for a roughly six-month stay at the orbital complex.
After docking with the station, the trio will join the crew of Expedition 49 currently aboard the station. Russian cosmonaut Anatoli Ivanishin, Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi, and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins launched aboard Soyuz MS-01.
The new crew arrival will increase the station’s crew complement back to six. However, the size increase may be short-lived as the Soyuz MS-01 crew is expected to land back on Earth on Oct. 30. This will once again decrease the crew count to three.
The crew count will again increase a couple weeks later when Soyuz MS-03 launches with cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson.
Whether the MS-02 delay will affect the departure of MS-01 or launch of MS-03 is unclear.
Recently, two other ISS visiting vehicle flights have been delayed. The Japanese Kounotori cargo ship was postponed from its Oct. 1 launch due to a pipe leaking. Additionally, the OA-5 Cygnus, which will launch atop an upgraded Antares 230 rocket, was also delayed to October for an unspecified reason.
While a delay has not been officially announced, SpaceX’s CRS-10 Dragon cargo capsule was slated to launched in November. However, due to the Sept. 1 Falcon 9 launch pad explosion, that mission will likely slip. How long will depend on the results of the ongoing investigation into the cause of the failure.
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.