Russian banking on Discovery launch

by Chris Bergin

Russia expects US space shuttle Discovery to blast off for the International Space Station (ISS) next week to avoid changes to the work schedule of the space lab’s crew, the Russian Mission Control said Thursday.

US space agency NASA said Wednesday it will attempt to launch Discovery on July 26 after engineers found the most likely causes of the fuel sensor problem that delayed its launch a week ago. However, there are some concerns over the threat of Tropical Depression Franklin.

“The ISS crew is working in a normal regime, but the further schedule depends on the launch of Discovery,” Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin told the Itar-Tass news agency.

The crew members – Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalyov and US astronaut John Phillips – are scheduled to make a space walk on Aug. 19, Lyndin said.

“If the shuttle is not launched on July 26 but at the beginningof August, the date of the space walk will have to be shifted,” Lyndin said.

Theoretically, the launch window could be extended from July 31to Aug. 4, but only in case NASA lifts certain restrictions on illumination of the spacecraft, the spokesman said.

The cancellation of the Discovery launch on July 13 has alreadychanged the program of the extravehicular activity of the ISS crew.

The crew had been planned to re-dock the Soyuz spacecraft from one module to another on Aug. 19 to make way for future space walks. As the shuttle did not lift off on July 13, the Mission Control re-docked the Soyuz ahead of schedule on Tuesday.

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