Tim Furniss/LONDON

The International Space Station (ISS) Service Module being built by Russia is eight months behind schedule, meaning a delay in the launch of the first ISS crew until early 1999, NASA has confirmed (Flight International, 27 November-3 December). Russian Government funding for the project has failed to materialise. If problems persist, the Service Module may be dropped.

The Service Module, being built by the Energia Company, was to have been launched in April 1998, allowing a three-man Russian-US crew of Yuri Gideznko, Sergei Krikalev and William Shepherd to man the ISS in May 1998. The module will not now be flown until December 1998 at the earliest.

The first launches of a Russian Functional Cargo Block (FGB) module and the Space Shuttle STS88/Endeavour remain scheduled for November and December 1997. Russia's Khrunichev, working under a $190 million contract with Boeing, the prime contractor for the ISS, has completed the FGB on time and on budget. The 20t module is, however, the only ISS component, which Russia is being paid to produce.

Although the limited ISS will be temporarily crewed during later Space Shuttle assembly missions, the Service Module was to have provided permanent living quarters for a crew, until the launch of the US Habitation module later in the programme.

NASA has contingency plans to juggle the ISS assembly sequence to take advantage of any extended temporary-crewing opportunities, allowing it to fit in the Service Module later in the sequence and still complete construction in 2002 as planned.

The more extreme plan is to dump the Service Module and go ahead with a rapidly developed US service module which could consist of an equipped empty stage, with guidance, navigation and control systems from unmanned launchers. This would, delay completion of the ISS to 2004.

Russia has selected pilot and flight engineer cosmonauts to operate on the ISS. The pilots are Valeri Korzun, now aboard the Mir 1 space station; Yuri Gidzenko, the commander of the first Soyuz TM flight to the ISS; Yuri Malenchenko, Yuri Onufrienko, Vladimir Dezhurov and Salizhan Sharipov. The flight engineers are Sergei Krikalev, who will fly with Gidzenko on the first mission; the fourth female cosmonaut, Nadezhda Kuzelnaya; and Mikhail Tyurin.

Source: Flight International