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[b]Soyuz TMA-04M launch reset for May 15[/b]
The launch of Soyuz TMA-04M with the next crew to the International Space Station (ISS) has been postponed until May 15, NASA's ISS program chief said Thursday (Feb. 2).
"During pressure testing of the [Soyuz TMA-04M] descent module on the pressurized section of the propulsion module, the vehicle was over-pressurized and as a result, it caused a leak in an area where the hydrogen peroxide system is housed for the thrusters that are used during descent and landing," Michael Suffredini, International Space Station manager, recounted. "As a result of that, our Russian colleagues have chosen to not fly this particular serial number vehicle and they've set it aside."
"A commission has been formed to figure out what the cause of the overpressure event was and how to make it sure it doesn't happen in the future. Meanwhile, they've pulled up the next vehicle in the flow."
The next vehicle, which had been slated to fly the Soyuz TMA-05M mission later this summer, is expected to be ready before May 15 but a period of dark lighting landing conditions and a desire to maintain two weeks between departing and arriving station crews drove the 45 day delay.
"We moved the [Soyuz TMA-22] landing to April 30 and the [Soyuz TMA-04M] launch to May 15," Suffredini said. "When we do that, the Progress [unmanned resupply vehicle] that was going to launch on the 25th of April is kind of close to the departure of the [TMA-22] crew so we pulled back the Progress launch up to 20th of April."
Further station launches will be impacted by the slip but Roscosmos, Russia's federal space agency, is working to minimize the delay.
"Our Russian colleagues intend to pull up the other vehicles in the flow to catch back up," Suffredini said. "There will be a bit of impact — we probably won't see the next Soyuz till the mid-July timeframe and we'll plan the return [of the prior crew] to make sure we have just a two week gap up there. And there will be about a two week impact as we go into the fall and winter [launches]."
Despite the delays, space station operations are not expected to be a problem.
"The impact relative to ISS — although there is a schedule impact — from a performance impact, there really is [none]," said Suffredini.
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