New Progress Re-Supply Ship Launches to Space Station

With a ‘textbook’ launch, the Progress 46 resupply ship is now on its way to the International Space Station. The Progress launched Wednesday at 11:06 UTC (6:06 p.m. EST, 5:06 a.m. Baikonur time Thursday) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. Inside the vehicle are 2.9 tons of food, fuel and equipment. It will arrive at the ISS and hook up via automated docking with the Pirs docking compartment on 00:08 UTC on Saturday (Friday at 7:08 p.m. EST)
Continue reading “New Progress Re-Supply Ship Launches to Space Station”

Soyuz Launches to Station amid Swirling Snowy Spectacular

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The future survival and fate of the International Space Station was on the line and is now firmly back on track following today’s (Nov. 13) successful, high stakes liftoff of a Russian Soyuz rocket carrying a three man crew of two Russians and one American bound for the orbiting research platform, amidst the backdrop of a spectacular snowstorm swirling about the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan – rare even by Russian standards.

The international crew comprises Expedition 29 Flight Engineer Dan Burbank from NASA – veteran of two prior shuttle missions to the station in 2000 and 2006 – and Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin from Russia. It’s the rookie flight for both Russian cosmonauts.

Soyuz TMA-22 lifts off under near blizzard conditions on Nov.13. Credit: NASA/Roscosmos

This is the first flight of a manned Soyuz-FG rocket – and of humans to space – since NASA’s Space Shuttle was forcibly retired in July and the subsequent failure of a virtually identical unmanned Soyuz-U booster in August which grounded all Russian flights to the ISS and threatened to potentially leave the station with no human presence aboard.

Snowy Soyuz TMA -22 blast off on Nov.13. Credit: Roscosmos

The trio of space flyers soared to the heavens at 11:14:03 p.m. EST Sunday Nov. 13 (11:14:03 a.m. Baikonur time Monday, Nov. 14) abroad their Soyuz TMA-22 capsule which was mounted atop the 50 meter tall Soyuz rocket.

Blastoff occurred precisely on time at about the time when the frigid, snow bedecked launch pad rotated into the plane of the orbit of the ISS. The launch was carried live on NASA TV and the ship quickly disappeared from view behind the nearly blinging blizzard.

The Soyuz TMA-22 achieved orbital insertion some nine minutes later into an initial 143 by 118 mile orbit, inclined 51 degrees to the equator.

The vehicles antennae’s and solar arrays were quickly deployed per plan and all spacecraft systems were functioning perfectly according to Russian Ground Control in Moscow.

Soyuz TMA-22 launches in spectacular snowstorm on Nov. 13 with Expedition 29 Flight Engineer Dan Burbank from NASA and Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin from Russia. Credit: NASA/Joe Acaba

Following a two day orbital chase and three course correction burns the future ISS residents are due to dock at the Russian Poisk module at the complex at about 12:33 a.m. EST on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

In the hours prior to launch the crew received a religious blessing from the Russian Orthodox Church, took the bus for the 25 mile trip to the Cosmodrome, donned their white Sokol launch and entry suits and headed to the pad.

The crew boarded the capsule in the midst of an extremely heavy snow storm which struck the Baikonur region of Kazakhstan in the evening prior to launch. See photo from backup NASA astronaut Joe Acaba.

Soyuz TMA-22 crew boards capsule amidst snowstorm at Baikonur. Credit: NASA/Joe Acaba

Although snow is quite common at this time of year, the blizzard conditions at launch time were actually quite rare according to NASA spokesman Rob Navias at Baikonur.

American rockets would never blast off in such severe weather conditions – but it’s nothing for the Russians!

The temperature was about 24 F, roughly 6 inches (15 cm) of snow had accumulated on the ground at launch time and moderate wind gusts partially obscured the view.

For the first time ever, a Soyuz crew was dressed in parkas – See Joe Acaba twitpic below !

Gantry towers were retracted from the three stage Soyuz booster at about T minus 25 minutes. The umbilical’s retracted in the final seconds.

The three stage Soyuz-FG rocket lifted off from Launch Pad 1 (LC-1), the same pad from which Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin flew as the first human to space 50 Years ago this year. The pad is named “Gagarin Start” in honor of Gagarin’s courageous achievement on April 12, 1961.

The rocket was fueled with kerosene (RP-1) and cryogenic liquid oxygen.

The ISS was flying some 248 miles above the Pacific Ocean and just west of Chile at launch time.

On the way to the Pad. Snow is falling. First time crew has had to wear these overcoats/parkas. All is go so far. Twitpic and comment from NASA astronaut Joe Acaba at Baikonur

The importance of the TMA-22 mission cannot be overstated because it restored confidence in Russian rockets which now serve as the world’s only pathway for providing human access to the $100 Billion earth orbiting outpost.

The cramped Soyuz capsule measures just 2.2 m wide by 2.1 m high and weighs 2200 kg.

Today’s critical launch had been delayed be nearly two months from September 22, following the failure of a nearly identical Soyuz-U booster in August which was carrying the Progress 44 cargo resupply spacecraft and crashed ignominiously in Siberia after the third stage shut down unexpectedly.

The Progress 44 was loaded with nearly 3 tons of supplies and was bound for the ISS.

The third stage is nearly identical for both the manned and unmanned versions of the normally highly reliable Soyuz booster rocket.

The launch came only after a thorough review of the causes of the accident by a special State Commision- which was traced to a clogged fuel line – introduction of new quality control measures and careful inspection of all the engines.

“We have no doubt in our minds both the rocket and the vehicle are ready, all the activities have been done at the appropriate level of quality and reliability,” said Vladimir Popovkin, Head of Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency, prior to liftoff.

Expedition 29 Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa, Commander Mike Fossum and Flight Engineer Sergei Volkov watch their new crew mates launch on time from inside the Destiny laboratory. Credit: NASA TV

The new crew will join the other half of Expedition 29 already in residence aboard the ISS; Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum (NASA) and Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa (Japan) and Sergei Volkov (Russia). This will temporarily restore the ISS to a full complement of 6 crewmembers – but only for a few days.

Fossum will hand over command of the station to the new crew within four days. His crew departs the ISS for Earth reentry on Nov. 21.

The successful launch means that the ISS will not have to be left unmanned for the first time since continuous manned occupation began over 11 years ago and which would have placed the station at risk in case of failures requiring human intervention.

Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin will spend 5 months aboard the station. They will be joined in December by the next trio to round out Expedition 30

Prelaunch photo of Soyuz-TMA-22/Expedition 29 crew - NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin Credit: Roscosmos

Read Ken’s continuing features about Russian Space Programs including Soyuz, Progress, Phobos-Grunt and Soyuz in South America starting here:
Soyuz Poised for High Stakes November 13 Blastoff – Space Stations Fate Hinges on Success
Success ! Launch Video of Crucial Russian Rocket to ISS puts Human Flights back on Track
Russians Race against Time to Save Ambitious Phobos-Grunt Mars Probe from Earthly Demise
Russia’s Bold Sample Return Mission to Mars and Phobos Blasts Off
Video Duet – Soyuz Debut Blast off from the Amazon Jungle and Rockin’ Russian Rollout !
Historic 1st Launch of Legendary Soyuz from South America
Russian Soyuz Poised for 1st Blastoff from Europe’s New South American Spaceport

Progress Vehicle, Shooting Star, Or…?

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International Space Station Commander Mike Fossum captured this amazing view of the Progress M-10M cargo ship burning up in Earth’s atmosphere after it undocked from the space station on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011. Via Twitter, astronaut Chris Hadfield — who is scheduled to command the ISS next year — said he received an email from Fossum about the picture, reminding him of a previous description Hadfield had given of what exactly is inside these departing cargo ships. It’s a video we’ve shared before, but it’s worth watching again.

Of course, the big news here is that the Progress M-10M was able to undock because of the successful launch of the Progress 45 vehicle last Friday, setting the stage for allowing the Soyuz crew ships to start flying again, lessening the probability that the ISS will have to go unmanned. Stay tuned for updates on the launch of the station’s next three residents, which is scheduled for Nov. 13, 2011.

Success ! Launch Video of Crucial Russian Rocket to ISS puts Human Flights back on Track

Video caption: Liftoff of unmanned Russian Progress craft atop Soyuz booster on Oct. 30, 2011 from Baikonur Cosmodrome. Credit: NASA TV/Roscosmos.
Photos and rocket rollout video below

The very future of the International Space Station was on the line this morning as the Russian Progress 45 cargo ship successfully launched this morning from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:11 a.m. EDT (4:11 p.m. Baikonur time) on Oct. 30, 2011, bound for the ISS.

Today’s (Oct. 30) blastoff of the Soyuz rocket booster that is used for both the Progress cargo resupply missions and the Soyuz manned capsules was the first since the failure of the third stage of the prior Progress 44 mission on August 24 which crashed in Siberia.

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The third stage is nearly identical for both the manned and unmanned versions of the normally highly reliable Soyuz booster rocket.

Today’s success therefore opens up the door to resumption of crewed flights to the ISS, which were grounded by Russia after the unexpected loss of the Progress 44 mission.

If this Progress flight had failed, the ISS would have had to be left in an uncrewed state for the first time since continuous manned occupation began more than 10 years ago and would have significantly increased the risk for survival of the ISS in the event of a major malfunction and no human presence on board to take swift corrective action.

Liftoff of Soyuz rocket with Progress 45 to ISS from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Credit:RIA Novosti

NASA issued the following statement from Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington, about the launch of the Progress 45 spacecraft.

“We congratulate our Russian colleagues on Sunday’s successful launch of ISS Progress 45, and the spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station. Pending the outcome of a series of flight readiness meetings in the coming weeks, this successful flight sets the stage for the next Soyuz launch, planned for mid-November. The December Soyuz mission will restore the space station crew size to six and continue normal crew rotations.”

Progress 45 is carrying nearly 3 tons of supplies to the ISS, including food, water, clothing, spare parts, fuel, oxygen and science experiments for use by the resident crews.

The resupply vehicle achieved the desired preliminary orbit after the eight and one half minute climb to space and deployed its solar arrays and communications antennae’s.

After a two day chase, Progress 45 will automatically link up with the ISS at the Pirs Docking Compartment on Nov. 2 at 7:40 a.m (EDT) and deliver 1,653 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen and air, 926 pounds of water and 3,108 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware and other supplies for the Expedition 29 crew.

Progress 45 atop Soyuz-U booster awaits liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Credit: Roscosmos

The successful launch sets the stage for the launch of the station’s next three residents on Nov. 13. NASA’s Dan Burbank and Russia’s Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin will arrive at the station Nov. 16, joining NASA’s Mike Fossum, Russia’s Sergei Volkov and Japan’s Satoshi Furukawa for about six days before Fossum, Volkov and Furukawa return home.

Liftoff of Burbank’s crew was delayad from the original date on September 22 following the Progress failure in August. Because of the delayed Soyuz crew launch, the handover period from one crew to the next had to be cut short.

Since the forced retirement of the Space Shuttle, the US has absolutely no way to send human crews to orbit for several years to come at a minimum and is totally reliant on Russia.

The survival of the ISS with humans crews on board is therefore totally dependent on a fully functioning and reliable Soyuz rocket.


Video caption: Rollout of Soyuz rocket and Progress cargo craft to Baikonur launch pad.

Read Ken’s continuing features about Soyuz from South America here:
Video Duet – Soyuz Debut Blast off from the Amazon Jungle and Rockin’ Russian Rollout !
Historic 1st Launch of Legendary Soyuz from South America
Russian Soyuz Poised for 1st Blastoff from Europe’s New South American Spaceport

First Progress Launch Since Accident Looms Large for Space Station Program

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The first launch of a Russian resupply ship since the August failure and crash of the Progress/SoyuzU is scheduled for Sunday, October 30, 2011 at 6:11 a.m. EDT (10:11 GMT). The importance of a successful launch looms large for the future of the International Space Station.

“Because the previous Progress didn’t get to orbit, it is important this launch go as planned,” NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries told Universe Today. “The booster we use to launch the crews, while not identical, is very similar to the one used for Progress — in particular the third stage where the failure was identified, so we do look forward to our Russian partners having a successful launch on Sunday.”

If not, the space station faces the prospect of being de-crewed.


This first post-shuttle era launch of a Progress cargo ship abruptly ended at about six minutes into the flight on August 24, 2011 when an engine anomaly prompted a computer to shutdown an engine, just before the third stage of the Soyuz rocket ignited. The rocket and ship crashed to Earth in eastern Russia.

Progress 45 is now set to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sunday and hopefully deliver 2.8 tons of food, fuel and supplies to the space station crew members.

Progress M-12M cargo vehicle launches on August 24, 2011. The rocket eventually failed and the rocket and ship crashed. Credit: NASA TV.

If that launch goes as planned, that would allow the Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft carrying three new station crew members to launch in mid-November. Flight Engineers Dan Burbank, Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin are scheduled to join the current on-orbit crew of Commander Mike Fossum and Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa and Sergei Volkov on Nov. 16.

Fossum and his crew are due to end their stay at the station on Nov. 21, so if the Soyuz TMA-22 can’t launch before then, the ISS will be left crewless.

While the Soyuz rockets and Progress cargo ships have had a long history of successes, this one failure – coming just after the space shuttles were retired – has left the ability to get new crews to the space station in limbo. The Progress cargo ships launch on a Soyuz-U rocket, while the Soyuz crew capsules, — the Soyuz TMA — launches on a Soyuz-FG. The third stages of the two rockets are virtually identical.

A Russian commission investigating the Progress failure said the crash was caused by a malfunction in the rocket’s third stage engine gas generator. The commission the malfunction was the result of an accidental manufacturing flaw. The third stages of all Soyuz-type rockets have been changed out, and a Soyuz rocket did launch successfully on October 21 from the ESA’s new launch facility in French Guiana, carrying new GPS satellites.

The Soyuz-U rocket has had 745 successful launches and just 21 failures over nearly four decades. The Soyuz-FG has had 25 launches, all successful.

“Because of the failure and similarity of the launch vehicles, we have been performing a lot of preliminary planning and work to make sure that in the unlikely event the Progress were to have another problem,” Humphries said, “that we would be able to get the existing crew home safely and be able to operate the International Space Station and conduct research there without the crew on board.”

Humphries said the ISS team has identified many issues so that they would be capable of operating the space station almost indefinitely without a crew.

“Of course that is not the preference because it would have some impacts on our research,” he said. “But we are very confident that our Russian partners have done their due diligence and identified the root cause and taken the right steps to correct this and we are looking forward to having a good launch.”

Humphries said despite the challenges of working with potentially having to de-crew the ISS, the space station program and partnerships are still strong.

“The international partnerships we’ve developed with our colleagues in Russia, Canada, Japan and Euorpe are probably one the greatest achievements of the ISS program,” Humphries said. “We back each other up on a variety of operational and other fronts on a daily basis. For example, our Russian colleagues were instrumental in keeping the space station operational following the Columbia accident in 2003.”

The launch and also the Progress docking to the ISS will be carried live on NASA TV.

Russian Space Agency Sets Dates for Resuming Progress, Soyuz Launches

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The Russia space agency has set dates for resuming flights with the Progress and Soyuz spacecraft. After determining the cause of the failure and crash of a Soyuz-U rocket carrying a Progress cargo ship bound for the International Space Station last month, Roscomos said they will be resuming flights soon, and the next Soyuz-U Progress launch will be on Sunday, October 30, 2011. “It is planned to launch Progress cargo spaceships on October 30, 2011, and on January 26, 2012. Manned Soyuz-FG spaceships will be launched on November 12 and December 20, 2011,” the agency said on their website.

The commission that investigated the crash has “approved the schedule of preparation and launch of spacecraft … The schedule is based on the analysis of willingness to third propulsion launch vehicle and taking into account the implementation of all recommendations developed by the commission.”

The commission said the crash was caused by a malfunction in the rocket’s third stage engine gas generator, which they determined was the result of a manufacturing flaw, which was “accidental.”

Roscosmos said they are also consulting with NASA to “refine the work plans of the upcoming missions to the International Space Station.” NASA has not made a statement yet on the plans laid out today by the Russian space agency.

If all goes well with the October 30 Progress launch, it will be interesting to see if all parties agree to allow NASA Flight Engineer Dan Burbank, Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Russian Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin to climb on board a Soyuz flight less than two weeks later.

Meanwhile, two Soyuz ST space vehicles carrying satellites that are being prepared for launch from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana will have the third stages of their rockets changed out, according to a spokesman from the Arianespace launch service corporation and the Russian news service Itar-Tass.

The third stages of two rockets will be returned to Russia, and new stages will be delivered to Kourou.

A spokesman for the Russian Space Mission Control said the resumption of manned and cargo launches means the ISS won’t need to be evacuated.

“This means that the ISS will constantly operate in piloted mode, with astronauts onboard,” spokesman Valery Lyndin told AFP. “Crews will be changed as originally planned, only the schedule will be somewhat pushed back.”

The first three of the current crew of six on board the station are schedule to return to Earth on Friday. NASA TV will broadcast the return on September 15, as Expedition 28 Soyuz Commander Alexander Samokutyaev, NASA Flight Engineer Ron Garan and off-going station Commander Andrey Borisenko will undock from the station’s Poisk module to return to Earth in their Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft.

They are set to land on the southern region steppe of Kazakhstan near the town of Dzhezkazgan at 11:01 p.m. CDT on Sept. 15 (10:01 a.m. local time, Sept. 16). Their return was delayed a week due to the Aug. 24 Progress 44 crash.

Expedition 29 station Commander Mike Fossum of NASA, Russian Flight Engineer Sergei Volkov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa will remain aboard the complex to conduct research until their planned return to Earth in mid-November.

The schedule to launch three new Expedition 29 crew members, is under review as NASA and its international partners assess the readiness to resume Soyuz launches.

Sources: Roscosmos, PhysOrg, Ciudad Futura (link for lead image)

Progress Crash Investigation Update

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The Russian space agency has provided an update on the investigation into the August 24 failure of a Soyuz rocket engine carrying a Progress resupply ship to the International Space Station. On August 30 — less than a week after the mishap – investigators for Roscosmos said the crash was caused by a malfunction in the rocket’s third stage engine gas generator. They now say the malfunction was the result of a manufacturing flaw, which was “accidental.”

This update is encouraging news, and means a decreased likelihood of having to leave the ISS unmanned.

From the commission’s report (translated):

On the basis of analyzing the behavior of the parameters characterizing the operation of the propulsion system the third stage, and results telemetry data it is concluded that reducing consumption of fuel in the gas generator due to contamination tract of its submission. This led to a breach of working conditions and reduce the engine parameters, it shut down on command “Emergency engine shutdown.”

Commission members concluded that this new manufacturing defect is random. However, the decision on his skills as a unit, should be taken only after cross-checking and follow-up of a special program just grazed manufactured propulsion.

A thorough check of all similar rocket engines will begin. The emergency commission to investigate the issue, led by Anatoly Koroteev, head of the Russian Keldysh science research institute on rockets, also recommended tightening quality controls at the rocket-manufacturing plant, and recommended adding surveillance cameras in the plant.

The space agency said future Soyuz launches will occur depending on the engines’ condition, but didn’t offer a specific schedule.

At Kennedy Space Center for the launch f the GRAIL mission, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said he is confident the fixes and checks will be done in time so that the ISS will not have to go unmanned. “We’re getting to the point where we’re going to satisfy ourselves that we can launch an unmanned vehicle to demonstrate that Soyuz is still okay, and then we’ll fly the crew up on a normal Soyuz mission later this fall,” Bolden, a former shuttle pilot and mission commander, said in an article in Florida Today.

“So the possibility of de-manning station is always something you think about, but it’s not something that is high on my list of concerns right now, because we don’t feel that is something that we’re going to have to do.”

At a press briefing last week, NASA ISS Program Manager Mike Suffredini said that two Soyuz-family unmanned rockets are scheduled to launch soon, which may provide a chance to test any fixes on unmanned launches before attempting a manned launch. A commercial Soyuz to launch a mobile communications satellites is scheduled on Oct. 8, and the Russians may launch the Progress resupply ship that is currently scheduled for October 26 a few weeks earlier in order to have another unmanned launch to study the problem.

The Progress cargo ships launch on a Soyuz-U rocket, while the Soyuz crew capsules, the Soyuz TMA launches on a Soyuz-FG. The third stages of the two rockets are virtually identical. The Soyuz-U rocket has had 745 successful launches and just 21 failures over nearly four decades. The Soyuz-FG has had 25 launches, all successful.
With NASA’s space shuttles retired as of July, Soyuz is the only means of getting astronauts to and from the space station.

Cargo can be brought by European and Japanese spacecraft, and SpaceX is scheduled for a demonstration cargo run late this year. Both NASA and Roscosmos confirmed that the astronauts are well-stocked with supplies on the space station, but the lifetime of the Soyuz currently at the ISS as return vehicles are limited to 200 days of on-orbit time. Of the six astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the station, the first set of crew of three will return to Earth next week via Soyuz, but it’s not known yet when their replacements will be able to fly. They original schedule has them launching on Sept 21, but that is unlikely. The second set of three ISS crewmembers will stay on board until mid-November.

Sources: Roscocmos, Florida Today

ISS Crew Provides Light-Hearted Look at Current Space Flight Plight

What does the International Space Station crew think about the situation they face since the Progress cargo ship mishap? Astronaut Ron Garan wanted to do something light-hearted to let everyone know that “we are all in this together,” so he and his crewmates created a video. Garan said “Despite the seriousness of the possibilities, and while we are all in this period of uncertainty, it doesn’t mean we can’t still have a little fun.”

This video also provides an impromptu tour of the ISS and shows how big the space station is, as it takes fellow astronaut Mike Fossum a long time to find Garan.

It should be noted that they made this video before they got the news of the potential of having the ISS unmanned. “This would have serious implications, and we all hope that it does not come to that,” Garan wrote on his Fragil Oasis blog. You can read Garan’s entire commentary about the video at that link, and take a look around at his other postings, as well. Garan is doing a great job of sharing his experiences in space.

Cause of Progress Crash May Have Been Determined

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The Russian news agency Itar-Tass is reporting that the cause of the August 24 failure and crash of the Progress re-supply ship that was supposed to bring supplies to the International Space Station may have already been determined. “Members of the emergency commission have determined the cause of the failure of the Soyuz carrier rocket’s third stage engine,” Roscosmos spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov was quoted. “It is a malfunction in the engine’s gas generator.”

If the cause has indeed been found and if the anomaly can be resolved to the satisfaction of both Roscosmos and NASA, it might prevent a worst-case scenario of having to de-crew the International Space Station by mid-November, which NASA Space Station Program Manager Mike Suffredini said was a potential outcome.

The Soyuz launch sequence, showing the time of the anomaly. Credit: ESA

The emergency commission to study the problem was only formed on August 26, and that a cause has already been found comes as a bit of a surprise. The commission is lead by Anatoly Koroteev, head of the Russian Keldysh science research institute on rockets.

“He is a man with quite a bit of experience in this field for our Russian colleagues, and indeed the world,” Suffredini said during a press briefing on Monday morning. But Suffredini also said that it would likely take the commission awhile to sort out the cause and its implications to future flights.

“The team is just getting going,” Suffredini commented. “They are trying to work quickly to resolve the anomaly but they don’t want to leave any stone unturned.”

What actions will be taken to resolve the problem now that a cause may be established are not yet known. Suffredini said that two Soyuz-family unmanned rockets are scheduled to launch soon, which may provide a chance to test any fixes on unmanned launches before attempting a manned launch. A commercial Soyuz to launch a mobile communications satellites is scheduled on Oct. 8, and the Russians may launch the Progress resupply ship that is currently scheduled for October 26 a few weeks earlier in order to have another unmanned launch to study the problem.

The Progress cargo ships launch on a Soyuz-U rocket, while the Soyuz crew capsules, the Soyuz TMA launches on a Soyuz-FG. The third stages of the two rockets are virtually identical. The Soyuz-U rocket has had 745 successful launches and just 21 failures over nearly four decades. The Soyuz-FG has had 25 launches, all successful.