Russia sets new Soyuz launch date on April 5

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 21, 2011 4:21 PM
Russia sets new Soyuz launch date on April 5

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Monday it had set a new date for the launch of three U.S. and Russian astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), almost one week after problems with its Soyuz craft forced it to cancel an earlier launch.

Space agency chief Anatoly Perminov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying the Soyuz TMA-21 would blast off at 1118 GMT (7:18 a.m. EST) on April 5 from Russia's Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan.

Russia delayed the launch to resolve a communication problem with the Soyuz, raising fears over its reliability and whether the mission would begin in time to honor the April 12 anniversary of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's first manned flight into space.

The Soyuz TMA-21, which will carry NASA astronaut Ronald Garan and Russians Andrei Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyayev to the ISS, is named after Gagarin, a major figure in the Cold War space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

NASA, which is retiring its shuttle fleet after two more flights this year, has relied exclusively on Russian Soyuz craft for space station crew transport since late 2009.

(Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel; editing by Tim Pearce)