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Software problems delay new crewed Soyuz MS launch

Soyuz MS spacecraft undergoing tests in May.

The Soyuz MS spacecraft undergoing tests in May. Photo Credit: RKK Energia

Russia has decided to postpone the maiden flight of its new crewed Soyuz MS spacecraft due to flaws in the control system, according to the country’s government commission. The mission, designated Soyuz MS-01, was originally planned to be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on June 24, but the necessity of additional software tests forced the commission to reschedule the liftoff for July 7.

The Roscosmos State Corporation said the decision was made with regard to the safety of the crew.

“For enhancing the safety of the newly modified spacecraft Soyuz MS’s flight to the ISS it has been decided to carry out more tests of software,” Roscosmos said. “The state commission has made a decision to [postpone the] launch [of] the Soyuz-FG rocket carrying the Soyuz-MS spacecraft till 4:36 a.m. Moscow time on July 7, 2016.”

At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, Expedition 48-49 prime crew members Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (left), Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos (center) and Kate Rubins of NASA (right) pose for pictures May 27 during their final Soyuz qualification exams.

At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, Expedition 48/49 prime crew members Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (left), Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos (center) and Kate Rubins of NASA (right) pose for pictures May 27 during their final Soyuz qualification exams. Photo Credit: Stephanie Stoll / NASA

Earlier reports had mentioned possible delays due to faults in the spacecraft’s docking system; however, the final decision wasn’t announced until June 6.

Due to the postponement, the Progress MS-03 cargo mission to the space station was also delayed as it was initially planned for July 7. The resupply flight is now rescheduled for July 17.

The date of the return trip for three members of the current ISS crew aboard Soyuz TMA-19M remains unchanged—their arrival on Earth is scheduled for June 18. However, earlier rumors had indicated the astronauts’ stay could be prolonged.

“Soyuz TMA-19M is to land at 12:12 Moscow time on June 18, 2016,” Roscosmos stated.

Developed by RKK Energia, Soyuz MS is a modified version of the Russia’s flagship Soyuz TMA crewed vehicle currently transporting international crews to ISS. The upgrades include an improved position control engine and a GLONASS/GPS system. The spacecraft also has a new approach and docking system, a new computer, and more power efficient solar panels.

Soyuz MS-01 is slated to deliver a trio of Expedition 48 crew members to the orbital laboratory. The crew, which will stay at the ISS for four months, consists of Russian cosmonaut Anatoli Ivanishin, who will serve as the mission commander, NASA’s Kathleen Rubins, and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). It will be the first spaceflight for Rubins and Onishi, while Ivanishin has flown to space once before in 2011 aboard the Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft.

The spacecraft will be sent aloft by a Soyuz-FG launcher from Site 1/5 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It will be the 130th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft overall.

Two more Soyuz MS missions are planned to be conducted before the end of 2016. The next launch is currently scheduled for September 23.

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Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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