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 to July 7.
The Roscosmos State Corporation underlined that the decision was made with regard to the safety of the astronaut 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. The state commission has made a decision to launch the Soyuz-FG rocket carrying the Soyuz-MS spacecraft till 4:36 a.m. Moscow time on July 7, 2016," Roscosmos said.
Earlier reports has mentioned possible delays due to faults in the spacecraft’s docking system, however the final decision wasn’t announced until today.
Due to the postponement of the Soyuz MS-01 flight, the Progress MS-03 cargo mission to ISS was also delayed as it was initially planned for July 7. The resupply flight is now scheduled for July 17.
The date of a return trip of the current ISS crew aboard the Soyuz TMA-19M remains unchanged – they will land on Earth on June 18. However, earlier rumors indicated that 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, that will stay at 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 already flown to space in 2011 aboard the Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft.
The spacecraft will be sent aloft by a Soyuz-FG launcher from the 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 until the end of 2016. Next launch is currently scheduled for September 23.