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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NASA Says No Decision Made Yet

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- NASA officials Monday disputed a top Russian space official's statement that the international space station would be delayed and said no decision had been made.


Their comments came as an astronaut in charge of NASA's shuttle-Mir program said a fire on board the Russian space station did not appear to be connected with the age of the station.


Russian space agency head Yury Koptev told reporters in Moscow on Monday that the scheduled November launch of the first international space station component was being delayed by seven months.


"NASA respects the opinion of Mr. Koptev but no final decisions have yet been made at all," NASA spokesman Rob Navias said.


The first component, a U.S.-financed, Russian-built orbital tug, is on schedule, but a Russian-funded service module, due for launch in April and needed to maintain the station's orbit, is running up to eight months late.


The Russian government has promised to start funding construction of the module by the end of February so it could be ready for a November 1998 launch. Sources close to $40 billion project have said a delay of at least six months now seems inevitable, but the details still have to be worked out.


"We have said several times in recent weeks that we are aggressively reviewing our options in terms of the flight hardware and assembly schedule," agency spokesman Ed Campion said.


Meanwhile, a fire aboard the Russian space station Mir appeared to have been caused by a cracked lithium perchlorate cylinder used in oxygen-generation and could not be blamed on the age of the station, Frank Culbertson, an astronaut who heads NASA's shuttle-Mir program, said Monday.


"It was a consumable that is periodically replenished on the Mir that appeared to have the problem," he said. "I wouldn't tie that to Mir life expectancy at all."


The fire occurred on Sunday while the 12-year-old space station, the world's only permanent orbiting craft, was out of radio contact, and it was an hour before the crew could inform the Russian mission control, Culbertson said.


The six cosmonauts, including American Jerry Linenger, wore oxygen gear for about 20 minutes after the accident and then switched to gas masks and air filters. Culbertson said they would wear the masks overnight as a precaution.