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Air leak on Russian craft postpones return of space station crew

An air leak discovered on the descent module of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft will likely mean that the next launch to the International Space Station will be delayed by 30 to 45 days, reports Russian media.  

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The crew aboard the International Space Station, shown here in 2010, will likely have extend their mission for another 30 to 45 days, due to an air leak that was discovered on the module of the Russian Soyuz craft that was intended to return them to Earth.

NASA/AP/File

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The next two launches of crews to the International Space Station will each be postponed by about 45 days, due to an air leak found during testing of the descent module of the Soyuz spacecraft. An official from the Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, said they will need to build a reserve capsule, and they will confer with NASA ISS program managers on Thursday to clarify the exact launch dates.

The current mission on the ISS will also likely be extended, with the crew’s departure also about 30-45 days later than the previously scheduled date of March 16. Alexei Krasnov from Roscosmos said the delays should not be a problem because the crew currently on the ISS had initially been assigned an “unusually short expedition” of 120 days.
 
“I think their return and the launch of the next crew (Expedition 31/32) will be pushed back by a month or a month-and-a-half,” he said, quoted by the Russian RIA Novosti news agency, adding that the mission that was scheduled for liftoff on June 1 (Expedition 32/33) will also likely be delayed.

As we reported last week, the Soyuz TMA–04M experienced problems during a test in an altitude test chamber at the Energia Space Rocket Corporation, with a leak in the descent, or re-entry module.

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