25 Dec 2011

New crew arrives at International Space Station

2:10 pm on 25 December 2011

A Russian Soyuz capsule has arrived at the International Space Station with a trio of astronauts, bringing it back to full staffing.after a failed cargo ship launch in August disrupted flight schedules.

The astronauts from Russia, the US and the European Space Agency blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, docking at the space station two days later .

Their arrival occurred about three hours after another botched Russian launch, the fifth this year.

An unmanned Soyuz-2 rocket carrying a Russian communications satellite lifted off from Russia's Plesetsk space center on Friday but failed to reach orbit after a third-stage engine failure.

The rocket and its payload crashed in Siberia, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said.

There was no immediate word about whether the Soyuz-2 failure will affect upcoming launches, including a Soyuz flight slated for Wednesday to put six Globalstar mobile communications satellites into orbit.

The engine on the Soyuz-2 rocket lost on Friday is different to that used on the rocket that launches space station cargo and crews, NASA said.

A spokesperson said it was unlikely to have any effect on operations to the International Space Station, a $100 billion research complex that orbits about 385 km above Earth.

At a news conference broadcast on NASA Television following the new crew's arrival, Russian space agency officials acknowledged the country's aerospace industry is in trouble.

"There are problems," Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said through a translator. "There is aging of many resources. We need to optimize everything. We need to modernize."

"It's also aging of human resources," Popovkin said. "Given the troubles we had in the '90s, quite a lot of people left and nobody came to replace them."