Space station may be temporarily abandoned

Aug. 29, 2011 at 2:45 PM
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HOUSTON, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Astronauts may have to temporarily abandon the International Space Station after the crash of a Russian supply rocket, officials said.

The Soyuz rocket carrying the Progress 44 supply ship, expected to deliver 3 tons of supplies to the orbiting lab's six-man crew, crashed in eastern Russia after a booster rocket failure just minutes after launch.

Russia's Federal Space Agency uses similar versions of its Soyuz rocket to launch both drone cargo vehicles and its manned space capsules, reported Monday.

Safety concerns over the Soyuz rocket could force the space station to fly unmanned beginning in November, officials said.

"Logistically, we can support [operations] almost forever, but eventually if we don't see the Soyuz spacecraft, we'll probably going to unmanned ops before the end of the year," Michael Suffredini, NASA's space station program manager, told Spaceflight Now.

"We will understand, to our satisfaction, the anomaly, what is believed to be the cause [of the crash] and how they resolved it," Suffredini said. "If we're not happy, we won't put our astronauts on the Soyuz."

Russia's space agency Roskosmos has postponed the launch of a new mission to the ISS from Sept. 22 to the end of October or beginning of November due to the accident, RIA Novosti reported.

Roskosmos said it would make two unmanned Soyuz launches before sending a new mission to the ISS.

"I think we will make one or two launches of the unmanned craft, either an automated one or a freighter, or both, and a manned launch afterwards," the agency's manned flight program spokesman, Alexei Krasnov, said.

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