The first manned mission to the International Space Station since a Russian rocket failed to launch successfully earlier this month may take off on December 3, space agency Roscosmos said on Wednesday.
They warned that two other Soyuz rockets could be defective, and said additional checks have been introduced. When the Soyuz launch failed earlier this month, uncertainty over the ISS crew launch schedule led to speculation that the space station would have to be abandoned, at least for the time being.
The last time Russian Federation saw an aborted manned launch was in 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts jettisoned and landed safely after a launch pad explosion.
The trio had originally been scheduled to blast off on December 20, but had their trip brought forward after the failed October 11 launch with Russia's Aleksey Ovchinin and NASA's Nick Hague on board.
The Soyuz-FG rocket carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin failed shortly into the October 11 flight, sending their emergency capsule into a sharp fall back to Earth.
The findings of an official investigation into the incident were presented at a press conference on Thursday. The malfunction caused one of the rocket's four side boosters to collide with the second stage of the rocket, Sergei Krikalyov said.
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The two crew members were then recovered by emergency workers near the Kazakh city of Dzhezkazgan, 400km (250 miles) north-east of the rocket launch site.
Speaking at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Krikalev said the sensor in question "should signal the removal of the first rocket stage from the second". More recently, Russia's space program has been dogged by a string of failed satellite launches involving unmanned vehicles.
"The reason for the abnormal separation. was due to a deformation of the stem of the contact separation sensor.", Skorobogatov told reporters.
"It has been proven, fully confirmed, that this happened specifically because of this sensor, and that could only have happened during the package's assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome", he said. Three people remain in orbit: American astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, German ISS Commander Alexander Gerst, and Russian Sergey Prokopyev.
Since then, Nasa has paid Russian Federation for seats on its Soyuz rockets to ferry its astronauts to the station.