Russia Postpones the Return to Earth of Three Astronauts

scene composition: litho, frame 22According to the BBC, Russia has decided to postpone the return to Earth of three astronauts currently boarded on the International Space Station (ISS), following the failure of Progress cargo spacecraft that disintegrated in the atmosphere last week.

The return to Earth of three astronauts from the ISS was originally scheduled for Thursday, but their landing on Earth was delayed until early June, said Vladimir Solovyov, the representative of Roscosmos – the Russian space agency.

The displacement of the three astronauts was also postponed for July.

Last week, the cargo spacecraft Progress M-27M entered an uncontrollable path shortly after launching and then disintegrated into Earth’s atmosphere.

Initial investigation held by the Russian space agency suggested that the main reason behind the failure was a problem on the third floor of the Soyuz launcher.

Vladimir Solovyov, flight director of the Russian space agency, said that the three astronauts had already been informed about the postponement of their return to Earth.

“They agreed to stay and work for another month,” said one Russian official, quoted by Tass news agency.

Vladimir Soloviev said that another Progress spacecraft would be launched to ISS following the failure and if all goes as planned, it would reach the three astronauts on the station in July.

Currently, the ISS crew consists of six astronauts – three Russians, two Americans and an Italian woman.

Even after the failure of last week’s supply mission, astronauts on the ISS have sufficient stocks of food, water, oxygen, and fuel, until the next mission supplying the orbital outpost.

Russian Progress spacecraft are disposable robotic capsules and are considered a kind of “pack horses” among vehicles used to supply the ISS. With a positive history behind, these vehicles have been used to deliver supplies and materials to the orbital outpost since 2000, when the first human crew arrived at the ISS. In August 2011, a failure during the launch led to the collapse of Progress 44.

Progress vehicles are equipped with an automatic navigation system, called Kurs, which enables automatic connection to the ISS. A secondary backup system, called Telerobotically Operated Rendezvous Unit, allows astronauts aboarded on the ISS to remotely control the spacecraft if problems arise with the system Kurs.

The Progress spacecrafts have an appearance similar to the Soyuz space capsules, composed of three modules, used to transport crews to and from the ISS. Instead of a capsule for human crew, Progress vehicles include a module filled with fuel that is used by the ISS to properly stay on the right orbit.

These vehicles are part of a Russian fleet of robotic spacecrafts which regularly deliver materials to the ISS. Automated vehicles made in Japan and Europe are also used to supply the Space Station missions, as well as commercial vehicles built by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp., performing missions for NASA.

The latest mission to power the ISS was carried out by the Dragon capsule, belonging to the US company SpaceX. It was launched on April 14 and has connected to the ISS on April 17.

ISS is a space project worth 100 billion dollars, funded mainly by the United States and 16 other countries whose financial contributions are lower. The station is continuously occupied since November 2000 by joint teams.

ISS is located on Earth’s orbit at an altitude of 400 kilometers, making a complete revolution around the Earth every 90 minutes, with average speed of 28.000 km/h. Weighing over 408 tons, ISS offers a living area equivalent to that of a Boeing 747.

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