ISS Trio returns to Earth, Landing in frosty Weather after half-year Mission
Barreling down the atmosphere, Soyuz guided itself to a parachute-assisted landing in north-central Kazakhstan. Soyuz TMA-13M touched down on time and on-target at 3:58 UTC to return its three crew members after a memorable mission living and working in space for over five months.
The three crew members set sail on May 28 when they boarded their Soyuz spacecraft that was then carried into orbit by a Soyuz FG rocket, delivering them on a path for a fast rendezvous with the International Space Station. Heading into orbit, Maksim Suraev was embarking on his second spaceflight after completing a long-duration mission to ISS back in 2009. Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst were beginning their first mission to space.
For the next four weeks in June and July, the six crew members purely focused on scientific activities – often acting as test subjects themselves to participate in studies on the effect of the space environment on the human body to identify the underlying mechanisms down to a cellular and biochemical level. For that, the crew members take all types of bodily samples that are returned to Earth for analysis, they participate in vision and hearing checks, test their cognitive abilities and complete questionnaires to track food intake, headaches and mood-swings. The rest of the crew’s time is dedicated to supporting the various scientific facilities aboard the station that run a myriad of experiments.
Despite their full scientific schedule, the crew members managed to find some time to look out the window and marvel at the beauty of Earth, passing by below them, and sharing their experience on the Internet. In particular, Oleg Artemyev was very active using a blog he created to share his experiences. Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst took the approach of social media and provided very honest insights into their experience of flying to space for half a year, sharing the day-to-day happenings on the orbiting outpost and posting hundreds of photos of Earth.
Oleg Artemyev and Aleksandr Skvortsov ventured outside the station again on August 18 for an EVA that was completed in just five hours and 11 minutes as the team blazed through their spacewalk timeline that consisted of the deployment of a small satellite, the installation of an Astrobiology payload, the retrieval and installation of space exposure experiments, and the acquisition of surface samples from a window.
Aboard the Dragon were over two metric tons of cargo, the majority being scientific equipment including 20 mice that traveled to ISS to stay in a new Rodent Habitat designed to allow rodent missions to ISS for studies looking at the effect of the space environment from a skeletal level down to biochemical processes ongoing on a cellular level.
Late in September, the robotic duo aboard ISS was busy as the Dextre Robot and Canadarm2 were used to install the RapidScat payload on the exterior of the Space Station to begin taking measurements of winds over the oceans to support meteorology and climate research.
October featured a total of three Spacewalks, two performed by USOS crew members and one by the Russian crew. First up were Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst who completed a six-hour 13-minute excursion during which they relocated a degraded Pump Module that was removed & replaced in 2013 from a temporary to a permanent stowage location. They also installed a backup power system on the Station’s Mobile Transporter.
Just hours after the failed launch of Cygnus, a Russian Soyuz 2-1A rocket was successful in delivering the Progress M-25M spacecraft into orbit for an express rendezvous to replace the Progress M-24M vehicle that departed ISS just two days prior. Progress M-25M brought over 2,300 Kilograms of cargo to ISS.
As Expedition 41 entered its final weeks, the crew focused on science activities, handover operations and preparations for the return of Soyuz TMA-13M. Over the course of several weeks, the crew went through procedure reviews, fit checks of their Sokol suits and Kazbek seats and cargo loading of the Orbital Module and the Entry Module of the Soyuz.
Two Antonov fixed wing aircraft were in the air to act as command and communication centers, coordinating the recovery effort from above. Helicopters were pre-staged on Friday and flew over to the landing zones once the Soyuz made its deorbit burn to be in position in time. Helicopters were able to deploy to the landing site in time, despite an initial delay due to icing conditions that required the first four helicopters to turn around to Kustanai.
Up in orbit, Maksim Suraev activated the Soyuz spacecraft for a final round of testing of the Flight Control System to make sure the craft was ready for its return. The Soyuz had completed the prescribed thruster and functional tests in the week leading up to its departure and tests on Sunday confirmed that all systems were up an running. Communication Checks were performed with Mission Control through Russian Ground Stations and final changes to the re-entry timeline were radioed up to the crew.
The Soyuz trio said good-bye to their fellow ISS residents who will stay aboard the Station until March. The Soyuz TMA-13M hatch was closed at 21:27 UTC followed by the closure of the Rassvet module’s hatch by Aleksandr Samokutyaev to allow the standard leak check to commence.
To get ready for the undocking, the Russian Segment's Guidance, Navigation & Control System inhibited all thrusters while the USOS Control Moment Gyros remained in active control of the Space Station's orientation. In a deviation from the regular procedure, teams opted to attempt this new sequence to save fuel since the Russian thrusters would normally be in charge of attitude control and maneuver ISS into an orientation to separate the Soyuz along the velocity vector.
The hooks of the Rassvet module were driven to open up so that only the hooks of the Soyuz were holding the vehicle in place. Inside the Soyuz, the crew was starting the undocking checklist, placing Soyuz on autonomous power and going through last checks.
The crew members sent commands to the Soyuz flight control system to configure the vehicle for undocking and Mission Control relayed their final go-ahead to the crew. Using the instrument panel in front of him, Suraev sent commands to power up the docking mechanism and set up for the Undocking Command.
However, due to the high altitude of ISS and the plasma build-up during entry, communications were expected to be intermittent during Entry and Landing until the command plane could acquire the Soyuz.
As the deorbit burn approached, the crew made sure they had the correct checklists ready and began working through their Deorbit Procedure. The automatic deorbit burn sequence was enabled to allow the Soyuz to start its re-orientation to point its SKD main propulsion system forward for the retrograde deorbit burn. Once in the correct attitude, the SKD engine cover was opened and the crew double-checked the burn parameters of the upcoming deorbit maneuver.
The SKD ignited at precisely 03:05:08 UTC on a burn of four minutes and 41 seconds to slow the Soyuz down by 128 meters per second, enough to lower its perigee altitude in order to intercept Earth’s atmosphere for re-entry. The deorbit burn was precisely targeted to allow the Soyuz to hit the atmosphere at a pre-determined location with the landing site within its entry range. Throughout the burn, Maksim Suraev provided running commentary, reading out tank pressures, the achieved delta-v and engine parameters to make sure the exact burn target was reached.
Once hitting the atmosphere, the OM and SM are slowed down more rapidly than the Entry Module, allowing the Entry Module to pull out in front.
Not equipped with heat shields, the Orbital and Service Modules disintegrate and burn up in the atmosphere with any surviving components impacting 830 Kilometers short of the planned landing site. The Entry Module of the Soyuz is 2.24 by 2.17 meters in size weighing nearly three metric tons, equipped with Hydrogen Peroxide thrusters used for attitude control during re-entry. It is not the most spacious vehicle, but offers enough space for the three crew members and some cargo that is returned for post-flight operations.
Now flying solo, the Entry Module used its Hydrogen Peroxide thrusters to re-orient and point its heat shield into the direction of travel, entering the atmosphere at a re-entry angle of 1.35 degrees.
Soyuz hit the atmosphere at 3:35 UTC as it passed through 102 Kilometers in altitude. Encountering the upper layers of the atmosphere at a speed of 7.6 Kilometers per second, the Soyuz was sticking to its initial orientation for 104 seconds before enabling Entry Guidance when passing through 80 Kilometers in altitude, flying over the Black Sea before heading over Russian territory en-route to north-central Kazakhstan. At that point, the craft began to actively modify its trajectory by executing a series of bank maneuvers to dissipate energy and control its lift in order to target its landing site in the northern Soyuz landing zone.
Creating a visible cloud of water vapor, the Hydrogen Peroxide propellant tanks were vented by the Soyuz to remove any residual propellants that could become a hazard in case of leaks after landing. To give the crew a look out the window, the Soyuz jettisoned its port hole covers that had blackened in the process of re-entry and valves were opened to equalize pressure between the Soyuz and its surroundings.
The heat shield of the Entry Module was jettisoned to expose the Caesium altimeter that was hidden underneath in order to deliver precise altitude data to the flight computers of the Soyuz.
With the Soft Landing Engines exposed, the stage was set for the vehicle’s touchdown. Inside the capsule, the Kazbek seats moved up in order to absorb some of the shock at landing. This signaled the crew to get ready for impact – making sure they were seated properly, pressing their heads into the Kazbek Seat Liners to avoid bumping into the seats at landing, keeping their arms close to their chest to avoid injury and closing their mouths to avoid biting their tongue.
The recovery team established radio contact with the crew to check whether everything was in order aboard the capsule. Teams then opened the hatch of the Entry Module and the crew was welcomed by a very fresh breeze as temperatures remained well below freezing throughout the day at the landing site.
The crew handed out checklists and documents before the extraction process began. First out of the vehicle is always the commander to vacate the seat in the center to ease the process of getting the other two crew members out of the vehicle.
Being helped out of the Soyuz and carried over to a reclining chair, Maksim Suraev appeared to be in very good health. Coming back from his second long-duration mission, Suraev knew what to expect during the first minutes after landing in terms of adapting to gravity. Maksim Suraev has now logged 334.5 days in space on two flights to ISS with two career EVAs under his belt totaling 9 hours and 22 minutes.
Next to exit the Soyuz was Alexander Gerst, also being carried over to a reclining chair where he was attended to by medical personnel beginning the standard post-landing checks. Gerst had a big smile on his face as he shared the re-entry experience with NASA/ESA teams present on site. His first space flight lasted 165 days and eight hours and Gerst performed one EVA with a duration of 6 hours and 13 minutes.
Last out of the Soyuz was NASA Astronaut Reid Wiseman who was in good spirits and quick with a joke, also appearing to be in good condition. His 165-day mission included two EVAs for a total of 12 hours and 47 minutes.
The three returning crew members spent a few minutes in the reclining chairs, enjoying a breath of fresh air before being moved to the medical tent set up at the landing site. There, they will be able to get out of their suits and participate in medical tests. Two hours after landing, the crew will depart the landing site, heading to the staging city of Kustanai where a small welcome ceremony will be held.
Three ISS Crew Members begin Return Journey aboard Soyuz TMA-13M
November 10, 2014
Suraev handed command over to Barry Wilmore who will lead Expedition 42, an increment stretching into March 2015.
On Sunday, the crew had a few quiet hours to enjoy their final views of Earth from the Cupola and find some time to rest ahead of a long and eventful night. In the afternoon hours, Maksim Suraev activated the Soyuz spacecraft for a detailed set of checkouts of the craft’s Flight Control System. Teams also completed communication checks between Russian Ground Stations and the Soyuz spacecraft to make sure Mission Control could talk to the crew during free flight.
In Kazakhstan, recovery forces are all set to welcome the Soyuz back to Earth. 300 people are part of the recovery team that consists of 14 Mi-8 helicopters, two Antonov aircraft and six all-terrain vehicles plus numerous other off-road vehicles. Teams were pre-staged on Friday in the town of Kustanai, north-west of the planned landing site that lies 82 Kilometers north-east of the town of Arkalyk in the northern landing corridor of the Soyuz.
Recovery forces have been closely tracking weather conditions as winter temperatures have set in. Temperatures will be no problem for recovery teams, but poor visibility forecast for the early morning hours on Monday were of some concern as the Soyuz will likely remain hidden above a low-hanging cloud deck for most of its descent. Fog present in the early morning hours is hoped to dissipate prior to landing to provide teams on the ground with favorable visibility.
Aboard their Soyuz, the three crew members began ingressing their Sokol Launch and Entry Suits before strapping themselves into their Kazbek seats inside the Entry Module. They closed the hatch of the Entry Module and completed a leak check on that hatch as well.
Soyuz TMA-13M will hit the atmosphere at 3:35:33 UTC with a velocity of 7.6 Kilometers per second. The spacecraft will stick to its initial re-entry attitude for 104 seconds before enabling Entry Guidance, starting to make bank maneuvers to dissipate energy and control its entry range in order to perform an on-target landing, 82 Kilometers north-east of the town of Arkalyk.
Soyuz Return Profile
A very successful mission to ISS was hit by a low-point just recently when Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket encountered a dramatic failure just seconds after liftoff on what was to be the next Cygnus resupply mission to the Space Station. Disappointed that they would not get to see Cygnus arrive at ISS, the crew began preparations for their return as Expedition 41 approached its end.
Return preparations made by the crew included several descent procedure reviews and simulations run inside their Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft to ensure all crew members were up to speed on landing operations. Getting ready to return to gravity, the crew changed their exercise routines and they also talked to recovery forces to prepare for their arrival in Kazakhstan and all post-landing operations.
The Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft was packed with cargo over the course of the past several weeks with disposal cargo being loaded into the Orbital Module and precious return cargo tightly packed inside the small Entry Module.
On Saturday, the crew of ISS will gather to participate in the Change of Command Ceremony in which Maksim Suraev will transfer command of ISS to Barry Wilmore who will be leading Expedition 42 that officially begins with the departure of Soyuz TMA-13M.
Getting ready for their overnight return, the crew will shift their sleep cycles, having a quiet day on Sunday to finish clearing their crew quarters and catching some rest. Later on Sunday, the Soyuz will be powered up followed by spacecraft checkouts and communication verifications with Russian ground stations. Final changes to the landing checklist will be provided by Mission Control Moscow based on the latest trajectory information.
Around 21 UTC, the three crew members will bid farewell and float across the hatch of the Soyuz. Following Soyuz hatch closure, the ISS crew will close the hatch of the Rassvet module to enable the standard one-hour leak check to commence in order to confirm tightness on both of the hatches.
Inside their Soyuz, the crew will begin putting on the Sokol Launch and Entry Suits. They will strap themselves into their Kazbek Seat Liners inside the Entry Module and close its hatch that then also undergoes leak checks.
Maksim Suraev will enter the center seat, gearing up for his second return to Earth aboard the Soyuz. Reid Wiseman in the left seat and Alexander Gerst in the right seat will be looking forward to returning from their first space mission.
Inside the Entry Module, the crew members will watch over all systems during the burn and begin configuring the Soyuz for re-entry and landing.
The Orbital Module will be depressurized after the burn in preparation for the separation of the three Soyuz modules at 3:32 UTC as pyrotechnic bolts are fired in close succession to separate the Entry Module from the Orbital and Service Modules that are set for a fiery re-entry, not equipped with heat shields. After module separation, the Entry Module uses its 24 Hydrogen Peroxide thrusters to re-orient and reach a re-entry angle of 1.35 degrees.
Soyuz TMA-13M will hit the atmosphere at 3:35:33 UTC with a velocity of 7.6 Kilometers per second. Soyuz will stick to its initial re-entry angle for 104 seconds before enabling Entry Guidance, starting to make bank maneuvers to dissipate energy and control its entry range in order to perform an on-target landing, 82 Kilometers north-east of the town of Arkalyk.
Soyuz Docking boosts Expedition 40 Crew to Six for busy Summer aboard ISS
The Soyuz rocket delivered the spacecraft to an orbit of 200.68 by 243.37 Kilometers at an inclination of 51.65° which was very close to the target orbit of 200 by 242 Kilometers.
As part of its four-orbit rendezvous it was up to the Soyuz to reach the Space Station's orbit at 413 by 417 Kilometers and link up with ISS for a safe docking to Rassvet. At the point of orbital insertion, Soyuz TMA-13M was about 2,600 Kilometers behind ISS.
Immediately after separation from the launcher, preparations for the rendezvous began due to the compressed timeline of the six-hour scheme that does not provide teams with any margin for problems. Following the nominal deployment of KURS antennas and the two power-generating solar arrays, the KURS system was activated and put through an initial test before Soyuz headed out of ground station range. This test is used to confirm that KURS radio technical rendezvous system is operational to ensure no trouble would be encountered later on as there is no time for troubleshooting once committing to the express rendezvous.
Engine burns #3 and #4 are then modified based on actual tracking data to correct any insertion errors which is a time-efficient way to make sure Soyuz starts raising its orbits right away and still ends up in an accurate orbit for the far-field rendezvous.
Soyuz made its first Rendezvous Maneuver just 43 minutes after launch, at 20:40 UTC. Igniting the SKD propulsion system for 93 seconds, the Soyuz accelerated by 37.5 meters per second to raise its orbital mean altitude by 57 Kilometers. SKD is a redundant main propulsion system that uses Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine fuel and Nitrogen Tetroxide oxidizer to generate 300 Kilogram-force of thrust. To control its three-axis attitude and conduct smaller orbital maneuvers, the Soyuz Service Module is equipped with 28 DPO thrusters that provide 26.5 or 130 Newtons of thrust.
The next burn came up at T+87 minutes (21:24 UTC) and was a 87-second firing of the SKD for a change in velocity of 35.7m/s to further raise the orbit by about 67 Kilometers.
When activating the ASF1 antenna, Soyuz switches to Lock-On mode, being able to compute the range and range rate in addition to the pitch, heading and line-of-sight angles.
Heading inside 200 Kilometers and using KURS data to compute its rendezvous path, Soyuz TMA-13M also established the VHF voice link between itself and the Space Station, allowing Mission Control Moscow to communicate with the crew members.
KURS underwent initial testing when Soyuz was still at a great distance to make sure it was providing valid navigation data. This 'long test' was followed up with a short test later in the rendezvous.
Rendezvous Burn 6 was completed by the Soyuz to begin homing in on its Ballistic Targeting Point. Until late in the Rendezvous, Soyuz is targeting a point one Kilometer from ISS to prevent a collision in the event of a navigation or propulsion system failure. It is late in the rendezvous that Soyuz actually starts targeting ISS for the proper position to start the flyaround.
Following docking, relative motion between ISS and the Soyuz was allowed to dampen out before the docking probe of the spacecraft was retracted. Hooks and latches were then closed to form a hard mate between the Soyuz and ISS to set the stage for the standard one-hour leak check to make sure all seals were tight.
Later, the newly arrived crew members will set up their Sokols for drying out and transfer time-critical experiment materials from Soyuz to facilities aboard ISS. Soyuz Commander Suraev will deactivate the Soyuz spacecraft and put instrumentation in position for the docked mission. Also, quick release clamps will be installed in the hatchway to rigidize the docking interface.
Before going to bed, the joined crew will have some off-duty time looking forward to a short day on Thursday and going back to normal hours on Friday - beginning operations as a joint Expedition 40 crew.
Many studies aboard ISS focus on the effects of spaceflight on humans and the underlying mechanisms occurring during prolonged exposure to microgravity. To complete these studies, the crew members will act as experiment subjects themselves – conducting regular sampling operations, tests of their cognitive abilities and a range of other tests to deliver data for more than 200 active studies aboard ISS.
>>>Expedition 40 Preview
After waking up, the crew members had their final shower for the next six months since all they will get aboard ISS are sponge baths and no-rinse shampoo. After showering, the crew members had to take microbial samples for an ongoing ISS study, wipe themselves with disinfectant, and put on the Sokol underwear.
Out at the launch pad, Soyuz FG Countdown Operations were initiated at L-8 Hours to begin the methodical process of readying the Soyuz rocket and spacecraft for liftoff. The launcher and spacecraft were powered up for extensive checkouts that were completed in the early phase of the countdown including electrical checks, propulsion system testing, flight control system verifications and communication checks. Batteries were installed on the Soyuz to provide power during the flight and teams removed a number of protective covers from the Soyuz such as the engine bell covers of the boosters and core stage and the interstage cover.
Venting gaseous Oxygen, Soyuz stood poised at its pad, waiting for the crew to arrive. LOX was continuously replenished as it naturally boiled off.
While Soyuz was being fueled and activity picked up at the pad, the international Soyuz trio arrived at Site 254 where they underwent their final medical check-up ahead of launch, getting the all-clear by doctors. For ingressing their Sokol Launch & Entry Suits at around L-4 hours 20 minutes, each crew member was assisted by a suit technician to ensure the Sokol could hold pressure. The crew members were looking forward to spending 11 hours in the Sokols from four hours prior to launch until after docking.
With one hour to go, the launcher's Guidance System was activated and configured for launch before the flight software was loaded into the redundant Flight Control System of the Soyuz at L-45 minutes. At that point, the Service Structure was evacuated for retraction.
60 seconds before liftoff, Soyuz was switched to battery power and the Auto Sequencer of the vehicle assumed control of the countdown for the final critical events. The third stage umbilical that fed propellant, power and data to the vehicle was disconnected and the Umbilical Tower moved away at T-40 seconds. The Core Stage umbilical followed at T-25 seconds.
At T+1 minute and 58 seconds, the four liquid-fueled rocket boosters consumed the last of their 39,600-Kilogram propellant load and shut down. The boosters delivered 101,400 Kilogram-force of vacuum thrust to give the Soyuz an extra kick needed to get into orbit, lofting the 7,200-Kilogram Soyuz spacecraft and its three crew members. Separating at an altitude of 49 Kilometers at a speed of 5.4km/s, the boosters showed a display of the Korolyov Cross in the night skies above Baikonur as they rotate outward after separation.
Ascent continued under the power of the Core Stage's RD-108A engine alone, delivering 94,000 Kilogram-force of vacuum thrust, burning 317kg of LOX and Kerosene per second, quickly pushing the vehicle out of the atmosphere.
The third stage shut down at T+8 minutes and 45 seconds and Giraffiti and the crew's checklists started floating inside the Entry Module of the Soyuz - confirming the crew had arrived in orbit. Two seconds after engine shutdown, the Soyuz separated from the third stage that then opened an Oxygen valve to perform an avoidance maneuver to get clear of the Soyuz spacecraft.
Executing a pre-programmed sequence, the Soyuz successfully deployed its KURS antennas and power-generating solar arrays, giving the spacecraft a span of 10.6 meters as it started its first lap around Earth. Control of the flight was handed to Mission Control Moscow where controllers quickly confirmed that the arrays and antennas had deployed, concluding a successful orbital insertion.
The Soyuz started the pressurization of its propellant tanks and the SKD main propulsion system was primed as part of its initialization for the first orbit raising maneuver.
Because the actual insertion orbit is not known until after the first ground station pass, the first two burns are pre-planned maneuvers with fixed values based on a nominal insertion orbit. On their second pass over Russian ground stations, the three crew members will receive parameters for burns #3 and #4 that are based on measured orbital parameters.
The first major rendezvous burn is targeted for T+44 minutes (20:40:56 UTC) and is a SKD firing of 92.9 seconds to increase the vehicle’s velocity by 37.54 meters per second, raising the orbit’s mean altitude by 57.3 Kilometers. The SKD propulsion system used for these burns provides 300 Kilogram-force of thrust and consumes hypergolic propellants. Coming up at T+87 minutes (21:24:51 UTC), the second pre-planned burn takes place while the Soyuz is passing over Russian ground stations. The SKD burn is planned to be 87.3 seconds long for a delta-v of 35.67m/s to raise the orbit by 67 Kilometers.
>>>Flight Profile Overview
During the first ground station pass, refined parameters for burns 3 and 4 are uplinked to the spacecraft based on the actual insertion orbit measured shortly after launch. These updates will slightly shift the times of ignition of the burns and also modify the planned delta-v values to target the specific orbit needed for the initiation of the Automatic Rendezvous. The third burn is planned to occur at T+2 hours and 4 minutes to deliver the Soyuz to a 338 by 375-Kilometer orbit followed by the 4th burn at T+2 hours and 35 minutes targeting an orbit of 360 by 376 Kilometers.
Three International Crew Members declared ready for Launch on Wednesday
Returning to the launch pad early on Wednesday, engineers will complete the final preparatory tasks for the Soyuz launch countdown operation that begins eight hours prior to liftoff. For the crew, the day begins about eight and a half hours before launch when they wake up for a long day of at least 22 hours. After getting up, the crew members can enjoy a final real shower for the next six months since all they can get aboard ISS is a sponge bath. They will also enjoy breakfast with the comfort of gravity holding their food firmly in place before packing up their belongings that will be taken home by their families.
Before departing the Cosmonaut Hotel, each crew member will sign his hotel room door and the crew will receive the traditional pre-launch blessing. Departing the Cosmonaut Hotel around L-6 hours, the crew members will board a bus for a 20-minute ride to the Cosmodrome’s Site 254 for suit-up.
Each of the boosters is 19.6m long consisting of a tapered and a cylindrical section with a maximum diameter of 2.68m and a launch mass of 43,410 Kilograms. Each booster is powered by an RD-107A engine delivering 838.5kN of sea level thrust.
The Core Stage is ignited with the boosters and continues to burn after the boosters separate, acting as first and second stage. It is 27.8m tall and 2.95 meters in diameter with a total launch mass of 99,500kg. The core is powered by a 990-Kilonewton RD-108A engine and four verniers for vehicle control. Sitting atop the Core Stage is the third stage that is 6.74m long, 2.66m in diameter and weighs 25,300 Kilograms powered by a four-chamber RD-0110 engine with four vernier thrusters for vehicle control.
>>>Soyuz FG Overview
>>>Detailed Countdown Timeline
Soyuz FG fueling is expected to commence just inside L-5 Hours as the four boosters, the Core Stage and the third stage are filled with Kerosene and supercold LOX. In addition, the boosters and core stage are loaded with liquid Nitrogen for tank pressurization and Hydrogen Peroxide to drive the turbopumps of the engines.
60 minutes ahead of launch, the Guidance System is activated and the flight computers receive their flight software 15 minutes later.
With final hands-on work complete, the two halves of the Soyuz Service Structure will be retracted as late as L-25 minutes. 30 minutes ahead of liftoff, the Launch Abort System will be activated and placed in automatic mode 15 minutes later. Technicians will clear the pad by L-15 minutes and the Soyuz spacecraft will be transferred to internal power and transition to its launch configuration. Ten minutes before launch, the inertial guidance system is configured for flight as gyroscopes are uncaged and flight recorders are activated.
With the boosters gone, the Soyuz is powered by the Core Stage alone, its engine delivering 94,400 kilogram-force of thrust until shutting down at T+4 minutes and 45 seconds. While the first stage is firing, Soyuz will separate its payload shroud when reaching 84 Kilometers in altitude, exposing the Soyuz TMA-13M and giving the crew members a look out the window as they approach their first sunrise, traveling east towards the terminator. Having no eyes to watch the sunrise, the three crew members will focus on the displays in front of them, tracking the status of their vehicle.
Moments after first stage cutoff, the RD-0110 engine of the third stage is ignited. At T+4:47, the pyrotechnic bolts connecting the Core Stage to the third stage are fired to separate the stages and allow the third stage to continue powered ascent while the first stage returns to Earth on a ballistic trajectory for re-entry and impact more than 1,500 Kilometers downrange. The third stage will deliver 30,400 Kilograms of thrust over the course of a 3-minute 58-second burn for shutdown at T+8:45.
Two seconds after engine shutdown, the Soyuz spacecraft will separate from the launcher and execute a pre-programmed sequence to deploy its two power-generating solar arrays as well as the KURS antennas. Because of the compressed timeline of the four-orbit rendezvous, the crew will immediately press into spacecraft reconfigurations to prepare for the rendezvous.
>>>Soyuz TMA-13M Flight Profile
>>>Soyuz Spacecraft Overview
A KURS systems check will be performed shortly after insertion to confirm the system is working as planned. The test needs to be completed before the Soyuz heads out of range of Russian ground stations.
Soyuz TMA-13M is targeting the usual insertion orbit of 200 by 242 Kilometers at an inclination of 51.67 degrees from where it will link up with ISS that is in a 413 by 417-Kilometer orbit. Orbital insertion has to be very accurate for the four-orbit rendezvous to work.
At a distance of 180 meters, the approach will be stopped for a short period of Stationkeeping to give mission controllers a chance to verify good alignment and perform a short systems check.
Once the command for final approach is sent, the Soyuz gently fires its DPO thrusters to initiate a slow closing rate. During final approach, Soyuz retracts its KURS antennas and keeps itself aligned with the docking port. Contact & Capture is expected at 1:48 UTC (+/-3 minutes) to mark the arrival of the Expedition 40/41 crew at the Space Station, joining the three crew members already in orbit.
Following docking, the docking probe of the vehicle will retract and hooks & latches will be closed to form a hard mate between Soyuz and ISS. The standard leak check operation will follow to ensure the seal between the Soyuz and ISS is tight. Hatch opening is planned around 3:25 UTC on Thursday.
>>>Expedition 40 Preview
Soyuz FG rolled to Launch Pad for Liftoff with next ISS Crew on Wednesday
May 26, 2014
The Soyuz FG rocket carrying the Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft has been rolled to the launch pad at Site 1/5 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Monday morning. Arriving at the pad and positioned upright for launch, the Soyuz is now set for two days of launch preparations ahead of liftoff on Wednesday at 19:57 UTC to begin a six-hour flight to the International Space Station to bring Maksim Suraev, Alexander Gerst and Reid Wiseman to their home in space for the next six months.
Per the old tradition dating back to Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight in 1961, the Soyuz began its rollout at 7 o’clock in the morning as the Transporter-Erector emerged from the Launcher Integration Facility for its trip to the launch pad.
The rollout was attended by the three backup crew members, Anton Shkaplerov, Samantha Cristoforetti and Terry Virts while the prime crew members were not allowed to watch the rollout because it is considered to bring bad luck. The quarantined prime crew has started to shift their sleep cycles to be able to support their late night launch and overnight rendezvous.
Under sunny skies, Soyuz completed its slow train ride to the launch pad and was placed in its vertical launch position. After a quick photo-opportunity and necessary checks, the two halves of the Service Structure were placed around the launcher to provide protection and access platforms for workers. Teams will spend Monday and Tuesday with final preparatory work ahead of the countdown.
The Soyuz will be hooked up to propellant and electrical lines and completes a thorough testing procedure. Batteries will be installed on the booster and a number of protective covers will be removed ahead of launch as Soyuz is prepared for the eight-hour countdown operation on Wednesday.
The 49.5-meter tall Soyuz FG rocket will receive its pre-flight blessing by an Orthodox Priest on Tuesday while the three crew members will get their traditional blessing on Launch Day when departing the Cosmonaut Hotel. For the crew, the last two days before their flight are dedicated to medical exams, procedure reviews and some quiet time ahead of a long and eventful day on Wednesday. As part of launch traditions, the crew members will get their haircut for flight and watch the 1969 movie ‘White Sun of the Desert’ – also a long-standing launch tradition.
Soyuz countdown operations will get underway on Wednesday to set the stage for liftoff of the Soyuz rocket and the Expedition 40/41 crew at 19:57:41 UTC, 1:57 a.m. local time on Thursday. The Soyuz FG launcher will complete a standard ascent into Low Earth Orbit taking nine minutes from launch to the separation of the Soyuz spacecraft to begin chasing the Space Station,
Using the four-orbit rendezvous scheme, the crew members are set for a busy rendezvous without a lot of breaks beginning with four large engine burns during the first two orbits of the flight before the initiation of the Automated Rendezvous Sequence on the third orbit for docking after four laps around the Earth. Docking to the Rassvet module of the Space Station is set for 1:48 UTC on Thursday ahead of hatch opening at 3:25 UTC to allow the three crew members to join the other half of the Expedition 40 crew that is already in orbit.
Soyuz Rocket Assembled for Launch of three ISS Crew Members Wednesday
May 25, 2014
The Soyuz FG launch vehicle has been integrated with the Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft as preparations continue at the Baikonur Cosmodrome for the launch of three international crew members on Wednesday to begin a six-month flight to the Space Station. Liftoff remains set for 19:57 UTC to set the stage for a six-hour rendezvous of Soyuz TMA-13M to bring Maksim Suraev, Alexander Gerst and Reid Wiseman to ISS.
Over the past ten days, the Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft finished its pre-launch processing flow and the three crew members participated in final training sessions and ceremonies at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Fueling of the Soyuz spacecraft took place last week at a dedicated fueling facility where the vehicle was loaded with 800 Kilograms of Nitrogen Tetroxide oxidizer and Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine for use by the SKD propulsion system and the DPO thrusters over the course of the flight. Helium pressurant gas was loaded into two spherical tanks and the Soyuz also received its load of pressurized Nitrogen and Oxygen gases for the environmental control system. The Entry Module of the vehicle was also loaded with propellants before the Soyuz returned to the spacecraft processing facility on May 18.
On Monday, engineers installed the Soyuz on its payload adapter that is used to connect it to the third stage of the launch vehicle and provide the attachment points for the launch shroud. Protective covers were removed from the vehicle for a set of final tests before the spacecraft was rolled horizontally and installed in its protective launch shroud on Wednesday.
For the three prime crew members and their backups, Anton Shkaplerov, Samantha Cristoforetti and Terry Virts, the past days were filled with a variety of activities that included the traditional flag raising ceremony and the tree planting ceremony on Wednesday. The crew members also went through a series of reviews of launch procedures and their first tasks aboard the Space Station that included a conference with Mission Control centers around the world and the three Expedition 40 crew members currently in orbit. They also underwent a series of medical checks as part of the pre-launch quarantine and spent some time on the tilt table to get ready for weightlessness.
The crew members were also able to complete their final personal tasks on Earth and spend some free time at the Cosmodrome, taking in the scenery and wildlife. As part of final reviews and meetings, the crew met up with the rescue teams to discuss procedures in the event of a launch abort as recovery forces will be stationed along the flight path of the Soyuz on launch day to quickly reach the landed Soyuz in the event of an ascent abort.
On May 24, the two crews visited the Spacecraft Processing Facility once more to climb into their cargo-packed Soyuz spacecraft for a final familiarization with the situation onboard ahead of launch day when they will have to climb into the vehicle wearing their Sokol launch & entry suits.
The two crews also visited the Soyuz FG launch vehicle that was being prepared for integration with the Soyuz spacecraft.
Later on Saturday, the encapsulated Soyuz was rolled horizontally for the move to the Launcher Integration Facility. Making a slow trip on rails, the spacecraft arrived at the integration facility in the afternoon to begin the process of being installed on the launcher’s third stage.
Later on Saturday, the encapsulated Soyuz was rolled horizontally for the move to the Launcher Integration Facility. Making a slow trip on rails, the spacecraft arrived at the integration facility in the afternoon to begin the process of being installed on the launcher’s third stage.
The payload adapter installed on the Soyuz was used to connect it to the third stage of the Soyuz FG launch vehicle. Engineers put electrical and data connections in place to allow the Soyuz to receive data from the launch vehicle’s systems and send commands to the flight control system of the Soyuz launcher. The Launch Escape Tower was subsequently added to the Launch Shroud, being firmly attached to be able to pull the Soyuz spacecraft away from the rocket in the event of a failure. It was also connected to electrical systems.
Teams then removed the final protective covers from the third stage including the engine bell covers on the RD-0110 upper stage engine. The third stage was attached to the Soyuz FG Core Stage that already had its four liquid-fueled boosters installed in the weeks ahead. Completing the integration of the launch vehicle and spacecraft, teams conducted a final round of testing to ensure all systems were functioning properly.
Overall, Soyuz FG stands 49.5 meters tall weighing 305,000 Kilograms when fully fueled for launch. Each of the four boosters consists of a tapered portion hosting the oxygen tank and a cylindrical section that facilitates the fuel tank. The booster is 19.6m tall and 2.68m in diameter, outfitted with a four-chamber RD-107A engine. The Core Stage that also acts as second stage after booster separation two minutes into flight is 27.8m tall and 2.95 meters in diameter using an RD-108A engine to power the vehicle. Sitting atop the Core Stage is the third stage that provides the vehicle with the final kick needed to reach orbit. It is 6.74m long and 2.66m in diameter outfitted with an RD-0110 engine.
With Soyuz assembled and checked out, the Russian State Commission met late on Sunday, local time, to review the status of the launch vehicle. No issues were identified and the approval to roll the Soyuz to Site 1/5 on Monday has been given. Per the old tradition, rollout will take place early in the morning. Once arriving at Site 1/5, Soyuz FG will be put in its vertical launch position to allow L-2 processing to begin leading up to liftoff on Wednesday.
Next Space Station Crew arrives at Launch Site for final Preparations
May 15, 2014
The crew of International Space Station Expedition 40/41 has arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome to begin final preparations for launch aboard Soyuz TMA-13M on May 28. Maksim Suraev, Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst flew to Baikonur from Moscow where they completed final training and exams as well as the normal pre-launch traditions. Liftoff of the Soyuz FG rocket carrying the Soyuz spacecraft into orbit is set for 19:57 UTC on May 28.
The international crew is comprised of Soyuz Commander Maksim Suraev who is a veteran of one previous flight logging 169 days in space, and rookie Astronauts and Reid Wiseman of NASA and Alexander Gerst of ESA, both selected in 2009.
Maksim Suraev has a background in the military, serving as a Test Pilot in the Russian Air Force before being selected as Cosmonaut in 1997. He was assigned to various prime and backup crew before getting a chance to fly in 2009 when he commanded Soyuz TMA-16 for a six-month journey to ISS.
Alexander Gerst is a German Astronaut part of the 2009 European Space Agency Astronaut Group. Expedition 40 will be his first flight following 4.5 years of training. Gerst holds a doctorate in Geophysics and has performed extensive studies in that field, making a number of Expeditions to Antarctica, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Guatemala. His ESA mission is named "Blue Dot" after the 1990 Voyager 1 photo showing Earth as a Pale Blue Dot taken from a distance of 6 billion Kilometers.
Reid Wiseman had a career in the US Navy as a pilot, making two deployments to the Middle East before becoming a test pilot and serving as Strike Operations Officer during deployment to South America. He was certified as astronaut in 2011 and by August 2011, he was assigned to ISS Expedition 40/41 and the crew of Soyuz TMA-13M.
Approaching the end of more than two years of flight-specific training, the three crew members participated in final examinations and training sessions in early May at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. Final examinations included Soyuz docking simulations in manual mode and in various conditions, manual descent & landing training, emergency scenarios aboard ISS and other training related to the operation of the Russian Segment of ISS. Both crews passed their exams with excellent results. In Moscow, they also participated in the traditional farewell ceremonies, including the customary visit to Red Square.
On Thursday, following the successful landing of Soyuz TMA-11M the day before, the crew of Soyuz TMA-13M boarded a flight from Moscow to Baikonur where they are set for final launch preparations. They are joined by their backups Anton Shkaplerov, Samantha Cristoforetti and Terry Virts.
The coming two weeks will be very busy for the prime and backup crews. On Friday, they are set for a visit to the Spacecraft Processing Facility where they will get a chance to look inside their Soyuz and familiarize themselves with the situation on board. The crew will complete a Sokol Launch and Entry Suit leak check using their actual flight suits which were not used for previous training sessions in Moscow. They will then return to their TMA-13M spacecraft for a suited ingress rehearsal and a series of simulations in their own vehicle.
The Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft that will fly under the call sign ‘Cepheus’ was delivered to Baikonur in early March to initiate pre-launch processing. Placed in a test stand at the Spacecraft Processing Facility, the vehicle underwent functional tests and stand alone testing followed by complex tests that checked the interactions of the various systems aboard the spacecraft. Testing included simulations of various flight scenarios including emergency spacecraft modes.
In late April, Soyuz TMA-13M was moved to the vacuum chamber for a series of extensive leak checks followed by radio interference testing. Afterwards, the Soyuz returned to the Spacecraft Processing Facility. Meanwhile, at the Launcher Integration Facility, the Soyuz FG rocket began its integration process as teams started the installation of the four boosters on the large Core Stage of the vehicle. The components of the Soyuz FG rocket were delivered to Baikonur earlier and completed acceptance tests before being put in storage.
As part of final checkouts, Soyuz TMA-13M underwent a solar array illumination test to ensure good power generation and teams started the process of moving cargo inside the Orbital and Entry Modules of the spacecraft that will share a ride to ISS with the three crew members.
Preparations for Soyuz propellant loading have also gotten underway. The Soyuz spacecraft will be transported to the hazardous processing facility where it will be filled with propellants (Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine & Nitrogen Tetroxide), tank pressurant gas (Helium) and pressurized oxygen and nitrogen for the environmental control system.
When the Soyuz is loaded, it will return to the processing facility for final checkouts, cargo loading and the installation of the launch shroud before being moved to the launcher integration facility where the Soyuz rocket is currently undergoing its basic build-up.
For the crew members, the next week will be filled with inspections of pre-packed cargo, reviews of launch procedures, emergency equipment familiarization, medical exams and the old pre-launch traditions including the tree-planting & flag-raising ceremonies.
Conferences with Mission Control Teams and the crew in orbit will be performed to make sure the trio will have a running start once arriving at the space station. The crew also enters the normal pre-launch quarantine and they complete their final personal tasks on Earth like getting a haircut for Zero G and meeting with their families before setting sail on a half-year journey.
Liftoff from the historic Site 1/5 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome is set for 19:57:42 UTC on May 28. Making a nine-minute ascent into orbit, the Soyuz FG launcher will deliver the Soyuz spacecraft on the fast lane to ISS using the four-orbit rendezvous that takes just six hours. For this fast rendezvous scheme, the Soyuz will have to complete four major engine burns during the first two orbits followed by the initiation of the Automated Rendezvous Sequence during the third orbit for docking at 1:47 UTC on May 29 topping up the ISS crew for Expedition 40.