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    Next shuttle launch planned for spring 2006 - Russian expert

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    ZHUKOVSKY (Moscow region), August 18 (RIA Novosti) - The next space shuttle launch will take place no earlier than spring 2006, a Russian Space Agency expert told a news conference Thursday.

    "According to current data, the Atlantis space shuttle will be able to lift off no earlier than spring next year," Alexei Krasnov, director of manned flight programs at the agency, said. "Therefore, we must count on our own resources to maintain the International Space Station (ISS)."

    "We have fulfilled our obligations before [our] American partners, although we are still counting on the resumption of U.S. space shuttle flights," he said.

    Krasnov said the Russian Space Agency would meet with its European partners on the ISS project to review and coordinate plans for the further construction of the space station.

    The next crew to board the ISS in spring 2006 will have two Russian cosmonauts and either a space tourist or a European astronaut, he said.

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