Thursday, September 15, 2011

Launches To Internation Space Station Could Resume By November 14

HOUSTON -- NASA and its international partners have agreed to a tentative launch schedule with crew flights to the International Space Station resuming on Nov. 14.

The Space Station Control Board, with representation from all partner agencies, set the schedule after hearing the Russian Federal Space Agency’s findings on the Aug. 24 loss of the Progress 44 cargo craft. The dates may be adjusted to reflect minor changes in vehicle processing timelines.

"Our top priority is the safety of our crew members. The plan approved today, coupled with the conditions on orbit, allow the partnership to support this priority while ensuring astronauts will continue to live and work on the station uninterrupted," said International Space Station Program Manager Michael Suffredini. "Our Russian colleagues have completed an amazing amount of work in a very short time to determine root cause and develop a recovery plan that allows for a safe return to flight. We'll have a longer period of three-person operations and a shorter than usual handover between the next two crews, but we are confident that the crews will be able to continue valuable research and execute a smooth crew transition."

The updated space station traffic plan includes Thursday's undocking and landing of three Expedition 28 crew members: NASA's Ron Garan and Russia's Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev. Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum of NASA, Satoshi Furukawa of Japan and Sergei Volkov of Russia will remain aboard the station to continue research and maintenance for 61 days until the remainder of the Expedition 29 crew arrives.

According to the current plan, the Soyuz 28 spacecraft, carrying NASA's Dan Burbank and Russia's Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov, will launch Nov. 14 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and arrive at the station on Nov.16.

On Nov. 22, Fossum, Furukawa and Volkov will undock their Soyuz 27 spacecraft and land in the northern Kazakhstan landing zone. Expedition 30 Commander Burbank, Ivanishin and Shkaplerov will work as a three-person crew for 36 days. The remainder of the Expedition 30 crew -- NASA's Don Pettit, Russia's Oleg Kononenko and Europe's Andre Kuipers -- will launch to the station aboard the Soyuz 29 spacecraft on or about Dec. 26 and dock to the station two days later. The exact launch date is under review.

The control board also received a report on the status of supplies and spare parts aboard the station. The report shows there is sufficient logistical supplies to support crews through the summer of 2012 without deliveries from the scheduled cargo flights.