September 23, 2019
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Soyuz carrying robot to attempt dock on ISS after failed attempt

Moscow, Aug 24 (efe-epa).- The Russian Soyuz MS-14 ship carrying android FEDOR as its sole crew member will try to dock on the International Space Station (ISS) again after a failed attempt Saturday due to a technical failure, Roscosmos and NASA reported.

"The repetition of the coupling will be on Monday, the 26th, in the morning. Skybot (Fiódor) is doing well.

"He is monitoring the situation from the ship," Vladimir Ustimenko, spokesman for the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, said on Facebook.

The Soyuz, which took off on 22 August from the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan), should have automatically hooked to the orbital platform on Saturday at 08:30 (05:30 GMT).

In live images, it was possible to see how the Russian ship began to approach the ISS, but suddenly stopped advancing when it was about 60 meters from its target.

"Everything was going well up to a distance of 200 meters.

"From there, there were some oscillations never before detected (in the Soyuz) and already in the hitching phase we understood that we would not be able to couple it automatically," said Vladimir Soloviov, head of flight missions of the Russian segment, told the local press.

However, the problem is not on the Soyuz, but on the space station, where there was a failure in the Russian-made Kurs coupling system, which was what prevented the stabilization of the Soyuz, NASA confirmed.

Soloviov stressed that the problem is "rectifiable", but also admitted that most likely the damaged part will have to be replaced by the station crew, which includes Russians Alexsey Ovchinin and Alexandr Skvortsov, Americans Andrew Morgan, Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and the Italian astronaut of the European Space Agency (ESA) Luca Parmitano.

"We have a well-prepared crew. We have talked to them and they know what needs to be done," he said.

To ensure the safety of the ISS and the ship itself, the Soyuz was moved away some 300 meters, its orbit reoriented and now it is in on standby.

"The Soyuz is in automatic flight. All its devices work perfectly," said Soloviov.

Roscosmos reported that the ISS and the six astronauts that inhabit it are out of all danger and that on Monday the Soyuz will try to join the platform again.

According to experts consulted by Russian media, the Soyuz engine has enough reserves to try to connect to the space station for a week, although they also warned that each attempt represents a risk.

In case it fails, Soyuz would be sunk in the ocean - as is traditionally the case with Russian Progress freighters - which would be a new setback for the Russian space industry.

The Soyuz MS-14 was launched on Thursday with the first Russian android, FEDOR which is short for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research. The android is expected to remain at the station for 14 days

FEDOR's trip into space was advertised with much hype in Russia and was expected to return to the station in 2021 to star in an outer spacewalk.

Roscosmos wanted to verify with this flight the reliability for manned missions of the Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket, which has a digital control system and that will replace the Soyuz-FG.

The robot has also been chosen to pilot the new Russian spacecraft "Federation", whose launch has been postponed until 2022, and could be the first android to travel to the moon.

"That is precisely our goal. Experiment with the new technology. Move the man away from the risk zone," Alexéi Bogdanov, its creator, told the RIA Novosti agency.

The android was developed in 2014 on behalf of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations with the initial purpose of being used in the evacuation of people affected by landslides, fires, as well as chemical and radioactive contamination.

Everyone in Russia is hopeful FEDOR will open the ISS hatch on Monday something the android will celebrate with a Tweet.

"Today is my first space flight and it is also the Flag Day of Russia, the country where I was created. Happy holidays, friends!" He wrote Thursday on his way to the EEI.EFE-EPA

io/ch

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