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Russia orders rare delay for next Soyuz crew launch

Posted: March 14, 2011

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The launch of the next three-man crew to the International Space Station will be delayed from March 29 after Russian engineers discovered a glitch in the Soyuz capsule's communications system.

File photo of a Soyuz spacecraft reaching the station. Credit: NASA
According to a statement posted the Russian Federal Space Agency's website, technicians found an "incompliance" in the Kvant-V communications system on the Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft due to launch March 29.

The issue was discovered during testing at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the statement said.

Officials are ordering a rare Soyuz launch delay to give engineers time to run more analysis on the problem, according to the the Russian space agency.

A NASA spokesperson said Russia has not selected a new launch date for the flight, which will dispatch three fliers to join the International Space Station's Expedition 27 crew.

"The actual launch date has been delayed until they can conduct a further investigation into the issue that occurred during some communications systems electrical testing with that Soyuz spacecraft," said Kyle Herring, a NASA spokesman.

The Soyuz TMA-21 crew includes (from left) U.S. astronaut Ron Garan and Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev. This photo is from a crew news conference in Moscow on March 11. Credit: NASA
Engineers blamed the testing glitch on a condenser in the Kvant-V system, a two-way radio communications system on the Soyuz.

The Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft will carry U.S. astronaut Ron Garan and Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev to the International Space Station, where they are scheduled to live and work for more than five months.

Borisenko will take over command of the space station in May.

Meanwhile, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly handed over command of the outpost to cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev Monday. Kelly and Russian flight engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka plan to board their Soyuz descent capsule and return to Earth early Wednesday.