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US to Extend Use of Russia's Soyuz for ISS Missions Until April 2020 - Source

CC0 / / The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft
The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft - Sputnik International
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The United States will extend the use of Russian Soyuz spacecraft to bring NASA astronauts to the International Space Station and ensure their return to Earth until April 2020, a Russian space industry source told Sputnik.

“The following scheme is planned for now: two NASA astronauts will remain on the ISS for nine months instead of the usual six. So, Nick Hague starts his mission on March 14 [2019] on the Soyuz MS-12 and returns to Earth on 18 December on the Soyuz MS-13, while Andrew Morgan will travel to the orbital station on Soyuz MS-13 on 6 July and will return on Soyuz MS-15 in April 2020", the source said.

According to the source, this will allow NASA to have at least one astronaut in the US segment of the station to maintain it and, therefore, to have a plan B in case of the delay in the start of regular flights of new US manned spacecraft.

"In other words, the dependence of the American side on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft is extended from December 2019 to April 2020", the source added.

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Next month, the US spacecraft Crew Dragon and Russia’s Soyuz MS-12 will dock with the ISS with the latter going to deliver three new crew members to the space station.

Last year, Russia's Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attracted international attention after the International Space Station's crew detected a minor air leak caused by a microfracture on a wall of the orbital module of the ship. Energia has since introduced video surveillance at all stages of the construction of Soyuz spacecraft.

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Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said in January that Russian State Space Corporation mulls adopting a new development strategy in order to regain its position as leader in the global space industry.

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