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Russia delays launch to space station to ensure safety of new spaceship
[MOSCOW] The flight of the next crew to the International Space Station has been postponed until July 7 from June 24 in order to ensure the safety of the first launch of their new "Soyuz-MS" spaceship, Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Monday.
A series of additional tests of the spaceship's software is required, Roscosmos said, citing the decision of a state commission which met earlier on Monday.
Russian Commander Anatoly Ivanishin, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Japan's Takuya Onishi are due to take off from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the "Soyuz-MS".
Roscosmos said the new spaceship had better control and navigation systems, a better power supply and a larger area of solar batteries than its predecessors.
Citing sources in Russia's space industry, local media outlets reported last week that the flight to the ISS might be postponed due to faults in its docking system.
A Roscosmos official declined to comment on Monday, pointing to the terse official statement.
Russia, then part of the Soviet Union, pioneered space exploration with the launch of the first satellite in 1957 and the first man into space in 1961.
But after the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union, its space industry has been dogged by technical faults that highlight a general crisis in Russia's hi-tech sector.
In April, a technical glitch forced a one-day postponement of the inaugural launch of an unmanned Soyuz rocket from Russia's new Vostochny spaceport in the Far East in the presence of President Vladimir Putin, who had specially travelled there to watch the event.