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Russia knocks back Soyuz launch

'Technical problems' hit ISS trip

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The Russian space agency Roskosmos has knocked back the slated launch of its Soyuz TMA-21, due to carry cosmonauts Andrei Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyayev, plus astronaut Ronald Garan, to the International Space Station.

The agency said in a statement: "A decision has been taken to postpone the launch of the Soyuz TMA-21 from March 30 to a later date due to technical problems."

Interfax says the new date will be 10 April, while Russian news agency Itar-Tass suggested it will be 7 April, according to Reuters.

Up on the ISS, Expedition 26 commander Scott Kelly is due to hand over control of the orbiting outpost to flight engineer Dmitry Kondratyev today. Kelly, along with flight engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka, will return to terra firma aboard the Soyuz TMA-01M on Wednesday.

Their departure marks the beginning of Expedition 27, which will reach its full complement when Borisenko, Garan and Samokutyayev eventually make it aloft. They'll join Kondratyev and his remaining crew of NASA 'naut Catherine Coleman and the ESA's Paolo Nespoli. The trio launched on the Soyuz TMA-20 on 15 December last year and will return to Earth in May.

Reuters notes that the TMA-21 launch delay "is likely to increase concerns about Russia's reliability on rides to the ISS just before NASA mothballs its shuttle later this year, leaving it entirely dependent on the Russian Soyuz". ®

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