NASA and the Russian Aviation and Space Agency have approved the go-ahead of final preparations for the launch of the Russian Zvezda service module to the International Space Station (ISS) on a Proton booster from Baikonur on 12 July. The green light was given at a general designer's review and a joint programme review in Moscow late last month.

Zvezda, which will provide the early living quarters for ISS crews, will fly for 14 days before docking with the Zarya and Unity modules, which make up the present ISS configuration. If Zvezda cannot dock, an emergency Soyuz TM crew will be launched on 10 August to conduct the docking with the ISS.

The agencies have also announced that the first expedition crew for the ISS will be launched aboard a Soyuz TM from Baikonur on 30 October. Three Space Shuttle missions are planned this year after Zvezda's launch to support operations and assemble new ISS components.

The Zvezda depends on the successful launch of the Geyser military communications satellite on 5 July on board a Proton with modified Block II second and third stage engines (Flight International, 27 June-3 July). The Geyser launch will have been preceded by two recent Proton launches powered by Block I engines, including the successful launch of the Russian Express 3A communications satellite on 24 June.

Source: Flight International