Russians abort satellite launch during space walk

3rd August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Two Russian cosmonauts on Wednesday embarked on a six-hour space walk from the International Space Station that ran into immediate problems when they aborted a bid to launch a mini-satellite in honour of Yuri Gagarin.

Television pictures from space showed Sergei Volkov and Alexander Samokutyaev -- wearing Russian Orlan-K space suits that resembled large refrigerators -- opened the hatch 20 minutes behind schedule at 1450 GMT.

The two men then spent about 30 minutes tethering themselves into place before taking their first tentative steps into space with the micro-satellite in hand.

The Kedr (Ceder) craft earned its name from the call letters the world's first space traveller used on his pioneering voyage on April 12, 1961.

The little craft was designed by Russian engineers and was supposed to carry out student experiments and emit greetings in 17 languages.

But the US space agency NASA and Russian officials said the satellite for some reason only managed to deploy one of its two antennas.

"We are turning off the starter switches and and going back in," a Russian space official announced during the live space flight broadcast.

A NASA official said the satellite may yet be launched later in the day after a round of urgent consultations and Russian officials said they were also expecting to launch the vessel on the second attempt.

"We have decided to launch the satellite with one antenna," a Russian mission control official was quoted as saying by Interfax.

The two cosmonauts are also due to take photographs of portraits of Gagarin and the father of the Soviet space programme Sergei Korolyev against the backdrop of the earth.

The pair is also expected to move a cargo boom from one airlock to another and install a prototype laser communications system.

© 2011 AFP

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