Space station may be left unmanned because of Russian rocket problem
A Russian Progress M-12M cargo ship blasts off from the launch pad at the Baikonour cosmodrome on August 24, 2011.
August 30th, 2011
09:12 AM ET

Space station may be left unmanned because of Russian rocket problem

Moscow (CNN) - The Russian space agency on Monday postponed the launch of a new manned mission to the International Space Station due to last week's accident in which an unmanned cargo craft was lost, the state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Alexei Krasnov of the space agency, Roscosmos, said the next manned mission, originally planned to launch on September 22, now would occur in late October or early November, according to the RIA Novosti report.

In the United States, NASA's space station program manager told reporters Monday that the timing of the rescheduled mission could force the temporary de-manning of the space station later this year.

However, the NASA official, Mike Suffredini, said no decisions can be made until a commission appointed by Russia completes its investigation of the August 24 crash involving a Soyuz rocket - the same kind used to power the flights of crew members to the space station.

With a planned rotation of the six crew members aboard the space station scheduled to begin next month, a delay in using the Soyuz could prevent the ability to bring replacements, Suffredini said.

"If we don't have Soyuz flying by the middle of November - the 16th or so, the normal landing time for the last crew - we would have to de-man ISS at that point," Suffredini said.

The six astronauts at the space station are three from Russia, two from the United States and one from Japan.

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