Flight to Replace Space Station Crew Faces Possible Delay
Expedition 9 flight engineer Mike Fincke (left) and commander Gennady Padalka with their Russian Orlan spacesuits in the Pirs Docking Compartment of the International Space Station (ISS).
Credit: NASA/JSC.

The planned flight of a Russian spaceship to replace the crew of the International Space Station could be delayed up to 10 days beyond the planned Oct. 9 launch, according to the Russian Federal Space Agency.

Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reports that engineers are working to resolve a safety issue with the Soyuz transport craft before the launch can proceed. An explosive bolt designed to fire during flight to initiate separation of modules went off by mistake during prefight tests.

It's not clear how long it will take to fix the problem.

"It takes a lot of work to reach it," Vladimir Syromyatnikov, an official with the Energia rocket and space corporation, told Itar-Tass.

The Russians apparently have not informed NASA of any delays, and NASA officials have not commented on the problem.

The Soyuz, lifting off from Kazakhstan, is to take NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao and Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov to the orbiting outpost. Chiao will be commander of this Expedition 10, with Sharipov serving as flight engineer.

Since the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia last year, the Soyuz craft has been the only way to swap out space station crews. Astronaut Mike Fincke and cosmonaut Gennady Padalka are near the end of their planned six-month stay aboard the station.