New crew arrives at space station after two-month delay

New crew arrives at space station after two-month delay

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (Reuters) – A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying three new crew for the International Space Station arrived at the orbital outpost on Wednesday after a two-month launch delay, a NASA TV broadcast showed.

Veteran Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko & rookie astronauts Kjell Lindgren with NASA & Japan's Kimiya Yui blasted off aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket at 5:02 p.m. from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

p> They arrived less than six hours after to commence a five-month mission aboard the station, a $100-billion laboratory that flies approximately 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

The trio had been set to fly in May, yet Russia delayed the mission after a botched launch of a similar Soyuz rocket on April 28. That accident stranded a Progress cargo ship in an orbit too low to reach the station.

Nine days later, the capsule, loaded with three tons of equipment & supplies, fell back into Earth's atmosphere & was incinerated.

View gallery

The Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft carrying the International Space Station (ISS) crew of Kjell Lindgren o …

Accident investigators determined that the Progress failed to separate properly from the Soyuz rocket's third-stage engine. The Soyuz returned to flight on July 3, successfully launching a replacement load of cargo to the station.

"We're confident in the rocket … we're all very excited to launch," Lindgren, 42, told a pre-launch news conference.

Two U.S. companies that fly cargo to the station under contract with the U.S. space agency moreover lost capsules after recent failed launches. Privately owned SpaceX & Orbital ATK remain grounded following accidents last month & in October 2014, respectively.

A fourth station resupply line is operated by Japan, which is scheduled to fly again in August."It's certainly no pleasant to see several of the cargo vehicles undergo mishaps," Lindgren said. "It underscores the difficulty of this industry & … how unforgiving the space environment is."

The arrival of Lindgren, Kononenko, 51, & Yui, 45, returns the space station to a full six-member crew for the first time in six weeks.

"We look forward to seeing them," U.S. station flight engineer Scott Kelly said during an inflight interview on Tuesday.

Kelly & Russia's Mikhail Kornienko are participating in the station's first year-long mission. Also aboard is veteran cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, the current station commander.

The Soyuz capsule arrived on Wednesday with just one pair of its power-producing solar arrays deployed. NASA mission commentator Kyle Herring said the glitch had no impact on the capsule’s flight & docking.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz Editing by Tom Brown & Clarence Fernandez)

Kjell LindgrenOleg KononenkoSoyuz capsule

Source: “Reuters”

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