Russians doubt Discovery’s July launch

by Chris Bergin

Head of Roskosmos Anatoly Perminov says he doubts the Discovery shuttle will be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in July 2005.

“I would like to hope that new NASA administrator Michael Griffin and his crew will launch the shuttle in July, according to the schedule, and I expect them to keep their promise. But I am beginning to doubt it, as the launch has been postponed three times,” Perminov told journalists on Friday.

Official spokesman for Roskosmos Vyacheslav Davidenko said earlier that the first meeting between Perminov and Griffin on the resumption of the shuttle program and prospects of the ISS would be held at the international aerospace salon in Le Bourget on June 14.

“I have prepared all the questions to ask NASA. We just have to continue the dialogue,” Anatoly Perminov said earlier in an interview.

The head of Roskosmos complained that he was worried about permanent delays in the launches of the Discovery shuttle. “We are greatly concerned about it. We have been waiting for the launch since February and we hoped it will take place in May. Now it is scheduled for July, and there are rumors that delays will continue,” the official said.

“Besides, Russia’s commitments on the ISS transport service expire at the year’s turn, so all the ISS partners should gather and discuss the schedule for 2006,” Anatoly Perminov added.

The US suspended its shuttle expeditions to the ISS after the crash of the Columbia shuttle on February 1, 2003. Since then Russian Soyuz pilot-controlled vehicles have delivered crews to the ISS, with Russian Progress ships in charge of cargoes.

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