Shuttles to head for ISS again

The tentative date for the resumption of flights of U.S. shuttle ships to the International Space Station is March 12, 2004, Rosoboronexport chief Yuri Koptev said at the MAKS-2003 air show on Thursday.

On that day Atlantis, one of the three remaining shuttles, will fly to the ISS, Koptev said.

The Columbia catastrophe on February 1 this year has suspended shuttle service.

In 2004 Russia plans to send five Progress space trucks and two Soyuz manned ships to the ISS, Koptev said. "They will continue operation of the space station, bringing with them 80 tonnes of cargoes, mostly fuel, and the shift crews, from 8th to 11th", he went on to say.

"Every third seat in the Russian manned ships will be given to a European astronaut. Russia will gain tens of millions U.S. dollars from it", Koptev added.

The launch data should be seen as tentative, he specified. "When the 8th live-in expedition is launched to the ISS on October 18 from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, all chiefs of the space agencies of the countries involved in ISS assembly will gather in Moscow. At this meeting, we will approve a program for the ISS service next year, including a date for the first launch of the U.S. Atlantis shuttle, and the launch dates for Russian ships", the Rosoboronexport head said.

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