With lingering uncertainly about when new commercial crew spaceships will be ready to launch humans, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Thursday the space agency will replace a Japanese astronaut with a U.S. space flier on the next Russian Soyuz launch to the International Space Station. He added that it remains in NASA’s interests to pay Russia for one or more additional Soyuz seats next year to ensure the station remains continuously staffed with at least one American.
Two weeks after a launch pad fire forced a delay, a Japanese H-2B rocket lifted off Tuesday with an HTV cargo freighter to deliver upgraded batteries, experiments and provisions to the International Space Station. Liftoff from the Tanegashima Space Center occurred at 1605 GMT (12:05 p.m. EDT) Tuesday.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the prime contractor for Japan’s H-2B rocket, said Friday that engineers concluded a fire on the launch pad during a countdown earlier this month was most likely sparked by static electricity and stimulated by oxygen. The H-2B rocket launch has been rescheduled for Tuesday to start a resupply mission to the International Space Station.