October 6, 2010

Soyuz Container Damaged In Transit

The Russian Soyuz chief constructor said on Tuesday that the spacecraft set to launch in December has suffered damage to its container during transit. 

Vitaly Lopota, the president of the Energia spaceship factory, told the Interfax news agency that engineers spotted damage to the Soyuz TMA-20's transport container after it was shipped by rail to the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

"When we put the ship on a stand to check it over before the launch, we discovered damage, but to the container, not to the ship," Lopota said.

"We will check everything, do more work on it and in December, I hope, we will fly on time," Lopota said.

The Soyuz is expected to transport Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and NASA astronauts Catherine Coleman and Paolo Nespoli to the International Space Station (ISS) on December 13.

The damage follows a technical problem that occurred last month while undocking the Soyuz, which forced the outgoing crew to return to the ISS for 24 hours.  Their delayed landing was the first for Soyuz flights in decades.

Interfax reported that the damage to the Soyuz container could require the ship to be sent back to the Energia factory.

"According to the results of the initial inspection of the damage, it cannot be ruled out that the ship will have to be returned to the factory," Interfax's source said. "A final decision will be taken in the next few days."

Roscosmos spokesman Alexander Vorobyov told Interfax that Anatoly Perminov, the head of the Russian space agency, would inspect the ship on Wednesday.

Vorobyov also said that the December launch date would not be affected because there is a reserve ship that will be sent to Baikonur.


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