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Next ISS mission could be postponed after shuttle delay

RIA Novosti

30/08/2006 13:36 MOSCOW REGION, August 30 (RIA Novosti) - The lift-off of the 14th expedition to the International Space Station could be put off from September 14 to 18 after a shuttle launch was delayed, the head of a leading Russian space company said Wednesday.

The launch of the Atlantis shuttle, previously scheduled for August 27, was delayed after a lightning strike on the orbiter's launch pad in Florida and fears are growing that an incoming tropical storm, Ernesto, may halt all launch preparations.

"We are preparing the launch [of the 14th expedition] in accordance with the September 14 schedule, but if the shuttle lifts off in the September 6-8 window, the launch of the 14th expedition will be put off until September 18," said Nikolai Sevastyanov, president of the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation.

He said September 18 was a crucial deadline for the launch of the 187-day mission on board a Soyuz TMA-9 because otherwise the 13th expedition on the ISS would have to return at night, which could pose some problems. He added that the corporation had agreed with NASA that Atlantis be launched no sooner than September 8.

He said that if the shuttle failed to meet the deadline, its next window would be in October, and the Soyuz would be launched September 14 as planned.

The spacecraft will carry the 14th ISS crew, consisting of Russia's Mikhail Tyurin and U.S. Michael Lopez-Alegria. Japanese space tourist Daisuke Enomoto failed a medical, and the Russian Federal Space Agency decided on August 22 to send a U.S. woman of Iranian descent into space.

Tehran-born Anousheh Ansari, who turns 40 next year, will become the first female space tourist.


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