Soyuz MS-02 launch date announced; Russian crew size to reduce in 2017

 The Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft prior to being placed into its payload fairing Sept. 15, 2016. However, during testing, a short circuit was found, requiring repairs or replacement. Photo Credit: Victor Zelentsov / NASA

The Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft prior to being placed into its payload fairing Sept. 15, 2016. However, during testing, a short circuit was found, requiring repairs or replacement. Photo Credit: Victor Zelentsov / NASA

After discovering a short circuit during pre-launch tests, Soyuz MS-02 was delayed from its Sept. 23 liftoff date. It has since been scheduled for no earlier than Nov. 1, according to the Russian news agency TASS.

As such, other Russian flights to and from the International Space Station will have to be moved around to accommodate this slip.

As of Sept. 21, the Roscosmos anticipates the following schedule:

Progress MS-02 undocking: Oct. 14, 2016.

Progress MS-04 launch: Oct. 20, 2016.

Soyuz MS-02 launch: Nov. 1, 2016.

Soyuz MS-01 landing: A week after Soyuz MS-02 docks with ISS.

Soyuz MS-03 launch: Nov. 16, 2016.

2017 crew reduction

After the schedule for the rest of 2016 gets ironed out, Roscosmos will begin making preparations to reduce their ISS crew size from three to two beginning with Soyuz MS-04 in March 2017. This means the overall space station crew compliment will reduce from six to five.

In a statement, NASA said this reduction would not effect science on the space station. Roscosmos stated the crew reduction would only be temporary and only two members are needed to maintain the Russian side of the outpost. This is all in an effort to reduce the number of Progress launches to the ISS in 2017 from four to three.

The Roscosmos State Corporation believes this will free up enough money to ensure the Multipurpose Laboratory Module, called Nauka, launches by the end of 2017.

Nauka was originally expected to launch in 2017. However, after a number of issues cropped up throughout its development. The latest was in 2013 when RIA Novostri reported the module was flawed and failed acceptance testing at RKK Energia. The problems included a contaminated fuel system and a leaking fuel valve. This required extensive cleaning.

Additionally, the propulsion system that was installed had exceeded its warranty in 2014. This required a new system to be manufactured, delaying the launch date even more.

Once launched, Nauka will be used for experiments, docking as well as storage. It will also be used as a backup to the space station's attitude control system.

Nauka will replace the aging Pirs docking compartment, which launched in 2001. Nauka, like Pirs, will be docked at the Earth-facing port of Zvezda.

 A 3-D rendering of the Nauka module. Image Credit: NASA

A 3-D rendering of the Nauka module. Image Credit: NASA

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Derek Richardson

I am a space geek who loves to write about space.

My passion for space ignited when I watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on October 29, 1998. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, I soon realized that my true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.

Currently, I am a senior at Washburn University studying Mass Media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism. In addition to running Orbital Velocity, I write for the Washburn Review and am the Managing Editor for SpaceFlight Insider.