The arrival of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, carrying three new crew members to the International Space Station, or ISS, was delayed after it failed to fire its steering thrusters for a planned engine maneuver in orbit, NASA announced Tuesday.
According to the space agency, the next trio of Expedition 39 crew members, including Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov and Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmos, and Steve Swanson of NASA, is now looking forward to a Thursday arrival at the ISS. All three astronauts aboard the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft are safe while their colleagues already on board the space station have been informed of the new plan, NASA said.
“The crew is fine, but the ground teams are taking a look at what exactly happened aboard the Soyuz and what caused that [engine] burn to be skipped,” Josh Byerly, a NASA spokesperson, said during an official television broadcast, adding that the Soyuz has enough supplies for the crew to last more than two days, if necessary.
The new crew members were expected to dock at the ISS at 11:05 p.m. EDT on Tuesday night. But, after the engine malfunction, flight controllers reverted to a backup 34-orbit rendezvous that would result in an arrival and docking at 7:58 p.m. EDT on Thursday. The three astronauts traveling in the Soyuz craft will be greeted by Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio of NASA and Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, who have been at the station since November.
“Flight controllers in Moscow are reviewing data to determine the reason the third thruster burn did not occur,” NASA said in a statement. “In conversations between flight controllers in Moscow and Houston, initial information indicates the problem may have been the spacecraft was not in the proper attitude, or orientation, for the burn.”
Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev are due to spend nearly six months in space before they return home in September as Expedition 40 crew members. The current Expedition 39 crew members -- Wakata, Mastracchio and Tyurin -- are scheduled to end their mission and return to Earth in May.