The Italian woman, Samantha Cristoforelli, who celebrated her birthday aboard the International Space Station on April 26, will spend three to four weeks in orbit along with partners: Anton Shkaplerov (left) and Terry Wirts (right).
The arrival of the three space station crews scheduled for Wednesday is postponed until Russian engineers determine whether a problem with a rocket that doomed a cargo ship to death last month can appear on a similar booster used in human space flights.
The results of the preliminary investigation of the crash of the Progress cargo spacecraft show that the third stage of the Soyuz carrier rocket separated early, firing the shell 13 miles below the intended height, the Federal Space Agency Roskosmos said on Tuesday.
Engineers are considering a potential problem with the system, which creates pressure tanks with a third-stage fuel engine.
The radars of the United States Air Force discovered 44 fragments of debris in orbit along with a falling cargo ship, right after Russian flight control center dispatchers lost contact with the shell launched on April 28 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Progress spacecraft reappeared in the atmosphere of Earth on Thursday evening over the Pacific Ocean and burned to the ground.
He was carrying more than three tons of food, fuel, water, scientific research, provisions for the International Space Station - a research center, which is located 250 miles above the Earth. The station is served by a team of six astronauts and cosmonauts.
While a specially appointed commission continues to investigate the incident, the launch of another Soyuz rocket carrying a spacecraft with a crew of astronauts will be postponed for two months, from late May to late July, Roskosmos and NASA say.
This delay, in turn, will delay the spacecraft crew currently in orbit there, at least, until the beginning of June.
It was determined that the station commander Terry Virts, the Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforelli and the Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, will leave the point in orbit on Wednesday. The trio was launched into orbit in November.