Russia steps up spacecraft production

Russia is to double its spacefleet production rate to make up for America’s Shuttle crisis.
Space chiefs took the decision to make sure more astronauts and supplies can be ferried to the International Space Station.
Russia currently builds two crew-carrying Soyuz spacecraft and four Progress cargo trucks a year.
This will be boosted to four Soyuz and eight Progress ships a year by 2009, a spokesman for state-controlled space company Energia said.
There are presently two astronauts on board the space station, 230 miles above the Earth.
There should be more but the orbiting outpost has been hit by continuing problems with America’s grounded Shuttle fleet.
Adding to the Russian fleet will increase the number of astronauts on the space station to six.
Energia vice-president Alexander Strekalov said: “Our partners in the ISS program have agreed to enlarge the station’s crew from two to six people by 2009.
“Given the restricted number of planned US Shuttle flights, Soyuz spacecraft will have to deliver more crews to the ISS and bring them back to Earth. We will need more such spacecraft.”
A return to flight mission for the shuttle Discovery is due in July, carrying British astronaut Piers Sellers.
But last week wind-tunnel tests showed that insulating foam was still falling from a redesigned fuel tank.
One of the spacewalks planned for Piers was cancelled by Nasa this week because they decided his schedule was too punishing.
Piers, 51, of Crowborough, East Sussex, was scheduled to leave Discovery three times in July with fellow crewman Michael Fossum, 48, to work outside the international space station.
They were due to work on a robot arm, inspect the shuttle’s heatshield for any impact damage and test repair techniques.
The walks were set for the fifth, seventh and ninth days of the mission.
But Nasa chiefs have now dropped the repair test walk on day nine because they want to give the astronauts enough time off to rest.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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