Washington: The Pentagon said that the US and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding on safe flight operations over Syria as they carry out separate airstrikes against militant groups in the country.
“Senior officials from the department of defense and the Russian ministry of defense signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding measures to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents between coalition and Russian aircrafts operating in Syrian airspace,” said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook here on Tuesday at a briefing.
According to Cook, specific safety protocols were established for air crews of both sides to follow, including the use of specific communication frequencies and the establishment of a communication line on the ground, Xinhua reported.
The US and Russian militaries would also form a working group to discuss any implementation issues that would follow, added Cook.
The two countries reached agreement on air safety in Syria 10 days after US and Russian aircrafts came within visual range of each other during a mission.
To avoid an inadvertent clash in Syrian airspace during their airstrike’s against the extremist group-the Islamic State (IS), the US and Russia started their latest round of military contacts early this month after a long hiatus due to rivalry on the Ukraine crisis.
The American astronaut who will hitch the first ride on a Russian rocket since last month’s aborted launch and dramatic emergency landing is confident that her scheduled trip in December on a rocket that she calls a “workhorse” will go smoothly.
Astronaut Anne McClain, along with a Russian cosmonaut and a Canadian astronaut, will man the Dec. 3 mission. It will be the Russian-made Soyuz-FG’s first crewed flight since Oct. 11, when U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and a Russian cosmonaut landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe after the rocket bound for the International Space Station failed in mid-air two minutes after liftoff.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has relied on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to the space station since the United States retired its Space Shuttle program in 2011, though the agency has announced plans for test flights carrying two astronauts on commercial rockets made by Boeing and SpaceX next April.
“I do see the incident that happened on Oct. 11 with our launch abort not as a failure but as a success,” McClain told Reuters in a telephone interview from Russia. “It actually bolsters my confidence in the rocket and in the processes that we have.
“We’re confident in the vehicle and getting back to it,” McClain said of the Soyuz rocket, which she called “the workhorse of the space program.”
After lifting off from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur last month, a damaged sensor caused one of the rocket’s three booster stages to separate improperly, falling inward on the rocket and jolting it off its ascent two miles above ground, Russian investigators announced earlier this month.
Video from inside the capsule showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, their arms and legs flailing. Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin can be heard saying, “That was a quick flight.”
The accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a crewed Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launchpad explosion.
In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has said that it could have been made deliberately by someone during manufacturing or while the craft was in space.
McClain and two other crewmates will launch from the same launchpad in Baikonur, joining the space station’s current three-person crew. (VOA)