The Soviet Union said Thursday that it launched an unmanned spacecraft to ferry equipment, food and drinking water to cosmonauts stranded since February in the orbiting Mir space station.
A special Kristall module, aboard a Proton rocket launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome, is scheduled to dock with Mir on June 6, the official Tass news agency said.
Insulation on a Soyuz spacecraft carrying cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyov and Alexander Balandin to Mir was damaged during its launch Feb. 11, raising fears the two could be stranded without a reliable means of returning to earth.
The U.S. trade journal Aviation and Space Week, quoting a visiting Soviet cosmonaut, reported two weeks ago that Solovyov and Balandin were left "without a reliable vehicle in the event of an emergency."
Soviet space officials said there is no danger to the cosmonauts, adding that the damage will not hinder a return flight. However, they said that a space walk is planned to allow the cosmonauts to repair the damage.
The report did not say whether the cosmonauts' mission has been extended to allow repair of their spacecraft.