Russia Unveils Space Station Part
MOSCOW (AP) _ Russian space officials on Monday unveiled a key segment of the new international space station that will house the first crew _ but its launch date is still months away.
Russia’s repeated delays in completing the service module have put the entire 16-nation project more than a year behind schedule, pushing up expenses and frustrating other partners.
The first component of the station, the U.S.-funded, Russian-built Zarya module, was launched last November. NASA followed in December with its Unity module.
NASA wants Russia to commit all its scarce resources to the new outpost and abandon Russia’s aging Mir space station that has been in orbit for more than 13 years.
The Russian government said it would only pay for Mir through August, and then scrap the station unless private investors come up with funds. No funds have been forthcoming, but Russia has still not announced a final decision on what it will do with Mir.
The RKK Energia company, which runs the Mir and also built the service module, has cited delays in government funding as the reason that it took so long to build the service module.
Monday’s ceremony marked the completion of the module’s testing at Energia’s plant just outside Moscow _ but there’s still no fixed date for sending it into orbit.
The spacecraft will now be delivered to the Baikonur cosmodrome in the former Soviet republic of Kazakstan for more pre-launch tests.
Russian Space Agency chief Yuri Koptev said the module would reach the cosmodrome in two weeks. The launch date will be announced in August once the pre-launch tests are completed, he said.
Russian space officials have previously said that the module is likely to be launched in September, but that appears to be the most optimistic scenario.
NASA has said that engineers typically need up to eight months at the launch site to prepare a space station component for flight.
Eight months of work would bump the launch of the service module back to December.