Flawless Shakedown Mission from Modified Soyuz Delivers Multinational Crew to Space Station

Three newly arrived crew of Expedition 48 in Soyuz MS-01 open the hatch and enter the International Space Station after docking on July 9, 2016.  Credit: NASA TV

A flawless shakedown mission from Russia’s newly modified Soyuz capsule successfully delivered a new multinational crew to the Space Station early Saturday, July 9 after a two day orbital chase.

The upgraded Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft launching on its maiden flight successfully docked to the International Space Station at 12:06 a.m. EDT Saturday, July 9, while soaring 254 statute miles over the South Pacific.

“Docking confirmed,” said a commentator from Russian mission control at Korolev outside Moscow. “Contact and capture complete.”

The Soyuz was ferrying the new multinational trio of astronauts and cosmonauts comprising Kate Rubins of NASA, Soyuz Commander Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on the Expedition 48/49 mission.

The three person crew of two men and one woman had launched flawlessly into picture perfect skies two days earlier from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:36 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 6 (7:36 a.m. Baikonur time, July 7), in the brand new version of the Russian Soyuz capsule that has been significantly upgraded and modified.

NASA’s Kate Rubins was strapped into the right seat, Ivanishin in the center and Onishi on the left.

It was a textbook approach on the shakedown mission that culminated in a flawless docking at the Earth-facing Russian Rassvet module on the Russian side of the massive orbiting outpost.

NASA TV carried the whole operation live with beautiful color video imagery streaming from the ISS showing the Soyuz approach and black and white video streaming from the Soyuz.

The Soyuz performed magnificently. All of the upgraded and modified systems checked out perfectly on this maiden flight of the new version of Russias venerable Soyuz, said NASA commentator Rob Navias.

“All new systems functioning perfectly,” said Navias. “This has been a perfect shakedown mission for the new Soyuz crew docking at the ISS.”

The Soyuz had slowed to an approach velocity of just 0.1 m/s at docking with the forward docking probe extended.

The approach was fully automated under Russian mission control as Ivanishin carefully monitored all spacecraft systems with steady update calls back to ground control.

The fully automated approached utilized the upgraded KURS NA automated rendezvous radar system.

During final approach, the Soyuz conducted a fly around maneuver starting at a distance of 400 meters. It moved 57 degress around the station while closing in to about 250 meters.

After station keeping for about 2 minutes while ground controllers conducted a final evaluation and no issues were detected, Russian mission control at last gave the GO for final approach and the GO command for docking was given.

The Soyuz made contact and completed a perfect docking at Rassvet. The hook and latches were then closed in for a tight grasp onto the station.

The crews then conducted a series of leak and pressurization checks.

After everything checked out, the hatches were finally opened about two and a half hours later at 2:26 a.m. EDT.

The new crew members of Expedition 48 officially floated aboard the International Space Station at about 2:50 a.m. EDT, July 9 with the hatches opened between their Soyuz MS-01 and the space station and after a live video transmission link had been established to show the festivities.

They were welcomed aboard with hugs and joined the Expedition 48 Commander Jeff Williams of NASA and Flight Engineers Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos.

With the arrival of Rubins, Ivanishin and Onishi, the stations resident crew is beefed up to its normal six person crew complement.

They soon held the traditional video telecon for well wishes and congratulations from family, friends and mission officials.

The new trio will spend at least four months at the orbiting lab complex conducting more than 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences, and technology development.

Rubins is on her rookie space mission. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and a doctorate in cancer biology which will be a big focus of her space station research activities.

The new trio will join Expedition 48 Commander Jeff Williams of NASA and Flight Engineers Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos.

“The approximately 250 research investigations and technology demonstrations – not possible on Earth – will advance scientific knowledge of Earth, space, physical, and biological sciences. Science conducted on the space station continues to yield benefits for humanity and will enable future long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space, including the agency’s Journey to Mars,” says NASA.
The newly upgraded Soyuz offers increased reliability and enhanced performance.

Many changes were instituted including enhanced structural performance to minimize chances of micrometeoroid penetration. Engineers also added a fifth battery for more power and storage capacity. The solar arrays are also about one square meter larger and the efficiency of the solar cells increased about 2 percent.

Also a more modern command and telemetry system to interact with a new series of new Russian communications satellites that will offer greatly increased the coverage by ground control. This was previously only about 20 minutes per orbit while over Russian ground stations and will now increase up to 45 to 90% of orbital coverage via the Russian comsat system.

A phased array antenna was also added with increased UHF radio capability in the Soyuz descent module that now also include a GPS system to improve search and rescue possibilities.

The newly upgraded KURS rendezvous radar system will weigh less, use less power and overall will be less complicated. For example it doesn’t have to be moved out of the way before docking. Weighs less and uses less power.

New approach and attitude control thrusters were installed. The new configuration uses 28 thrusters with a redundant thruster for each one – thus two fully redundant manifolds of 28 thrusters each.
All of these modification were tested out on the last two progress vehicles.

Multiple unmanned cargo ships carrying tons of essential supplies and science experiments are also scheduled to arrive from Russia, the US and Japan over the next few months.

A SpaceX Dragon is scheduled to launch as soon as July 18 and an Orbital ATK Cygnus should follow in August.
The SpaceX Dragon CRS-9 mission is slated to deliver the station’s first International docking adapter (IDA) to accommodate the future arrival of U.S. commercial crew spacecraft, including the Boeing built Starliner and SpaceX built Crew Dragon.

A Japanese HTV cargo craft will carry lithium ion batteries to replace the nickel-hydrogen batteries currently used on station to store electrical energy generated by the station’s huge rotating solar arrays.

Two Russian Progress craft with many tons of supplies are also scheduled to arrive.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

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International Trio from US, Russia and Japan Launches to Space Station on Newly Upgraded Soyuz

The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Expedition 48-49 crewmembers Kate Rubins of NASA, Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) onboard, Thursday, July 7, 2016 , Kazakh time (July 6 Eastern time), Baikonur, Kazakhstan.  Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

An international trio of astronauts and cosmonauts representing the United States, Russia and Japan blasted off in the early morning Kazakh hours today, July 7, for a new mission of science and discovery to the International Space Station (ISS).

The three person crew of two men and one woman launched flawlessly into picture perfect skies from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:36 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 6 (7:36 a.m. Baikonur time, July 7), and in a brand new version of the Russian Soyuz capsule that has been significantly upgraded and modified.

The launch of the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft was carried live on NASA TV starting approximately an hour before the usual on time liftoff from Baikonur. The three stage Soyuz booster generates 930,000 pounds of liftoff thrust.

The trio comprises Kate Rubins of NASA, Soyuz Commander Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on the Expedition 48/49 mission.

They safely reached orbit at about 9:46 p.m. after the eight minute climb delivered them to the preliminary orbit of 143 x 118 mi. The Soyuz separated from the third stage and the solar arrays deployed as planned. NASA’s Kate Rubins was sitting in the left seat.

And precisely because it’s a heavily modified Soyuz, they will take the slow road to the ISS.

The crew will spend the next two days and 34 Earth orbits inside in order to fully check out and test the upgraded Soyuz spacecraft systems.

That’s in contrast to missions in recent years that took a vastly sped up 4 orbit 6 hour route to the space station.

Three carefully choreographed orbital adjustment burns will raise the orbit and propel the crew to the to ISS over next 2 days.

They expect to rendezvous and dock at the space station’s Russian Rassvet module at 12:12 a.m. EDT Saturday, July 9.

After conducting leak and safety check they expect to open the hatch to the ISS at about 2:50 a.m. Saturday, July 9.

You can watch all the hatch opening action live on NASA TV with coverage starting at 2:30 a.m.

They will spend about four months at the orbiting lab complex conducting more than 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences, and technology development.

With the arrival of Rubins, Ivanishin and Onishi, the station is beefed up to its normal six person crew complement.

Rubins is on her rookie space mission. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and a doctorate in cancer biology which will be a big focus of her space station research activities.

The new trio will join Expedition 48 Commander Jeff Williams of NASA and Flight Engineers Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos.

The Expedition 48 crew members will spend four months contributing to more than 250 experiments in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.

“The approximately 250 research investigations and technology demonstrations – not possible on Earth – will advance scientific knowledge of Earth, space, physical, and biological sciences. Science conducted on the space station continues to yield benefits for humanity and will enable future long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space, including the agency’s Journey to Mars,” says NASA.

Multiple unmanned cargo ships carrying tons of essential supplies and science experiments are also scheduled to arrive from Russia, the US and Japan over the next few months.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

The post International Trio from US, Russia and Japan Launches to Space Station on Newly Upgraded Soyuz appeared first on Universe Today.

ESA Planning To Build An International Village… On The Moon!

The ESA recently elaborated its plan to create a Moon base by the 2030s. Credit: Foster + Partners is part of a consortium set up by the European Space Agency to explore the possibilities of 3D printing to construct lunar habitations. Credit: ESA/Foster + Partners

With all the talk about manned missions to Mars by the 2030s, its easy to overlook another major proposal for the next great leap. In recent years, the European Space Agency has been quite vocal about its plan to go back to the Moon by the 2020s. More importantly, they have spoken often about their plans to construct a moon base, one which would serve as a staging platform for future missions to Mars and beyond.

These plans were detailed at a recent international symposium that took place on Dec. 15th at the the European Space Research and Technology Center in Noordwijk, Netherlands. During the symposium, which was titled “Moon 2020-2030 – A New Era of Coordinated Human and Robotic Exploration”, the new Director General of the ESA – Jan Woerner – articulated his agency’s vision.

The purpose of the symposium – which saw 200 scientists and experts coming together to discuss plans and missions for the next decade – was to outline common goals for lunar exploration, and draft methods on how these can be achieved cooperatively. Intrinsic to this was the International Space Exploration Coordinated Group‘s (ISECG) Global Exploration Roadmap, an agenda for space exploration that was drafted by the group’s 14 members – which includes NASA, the ESA, Roscosmos, and other federal agencies.

This roadmap not only lays out the strategic significance of the Moon as a global space exploration endeavor, but also calls for a shared international vision on how to go about exploring the Moon and using it as a stepping stone for future goals. When it came time to discuss how the ESA might contribute to this shared vision, Woerner outlined his agency’s plan to establish an international lunar base.

In the past, Woerner has expressed his interest in a base on the Moon that would act as a sort of successor to the International Space Station. Looking ahead, he envisions how an international community would live and perform research in this environment, which would be constructed using robotic workers, 3D printing techniques, and in-situ resources utilization.

The construction of such a base would also offer opportunities to leverage new technologies and forge lucrative partnerships between federal space agencies and private companies. Already, the ESA has collaborated with the architectural design firm Foster + Partners to come up with the plan for their lunar village, and other private companies have also been recruited to help investigate other aspects of building it.

Going forward, the plan calls for a series of manned missions to the Moon beginning in the 2020s, which would involve robot workers paving the way for human explorers to land later. These robots would likely be controlled through telepresence, and would combine lunar regolith with magnesium oxide and a binding salt to print out the shield walls of the habitat.

At present, the plan is for the base to be built in southern polar region, which exists in a near-state of perpetual twilight. Whether or not this will serve as a suitable location will be the subject of the upcoming Lunar Polar Sample Return mission – a joint effort between the ESA and Roscosmos that will involve sending a robotic probe to the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin by 2020 to retrieve samples of ice.

This mission follows in the footsteps of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which showed that the Shakleton crater – located in the Moon’s southern polar region – has an abundant supply of water ice. This could not only be used to provide the Moon base with a source of drinking water, but could also be converted into hydrogen to refuel spacecraft on their way to and from Earth.

As Woerner was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail during the course of the symposium, this lunar base would provide the opportunity for scientists from many different nations to live and work together:

The future of space travel needs a new vision. Right now we have the Space Station as a common international project, but it won’t last forever. If I say Moon Village, it does not mean single houses, a church, a town hall and so on… My idea only deals with the core of the concept of a village: people working and living together in the same place. And this place would be on the Moon. In the Moon Village we would like to combine the capabilities of different spacefaring nations, with the help of robots and astronauts. The participants can work in different fields, perhaps they will conduct pure science and perhaps there will even be business ventures like mining or tourism.

http://video.dailymail.co.uk/video/bc/rtmp_uds/1418450360/2015/05/06/1418450360_4220193384001_4219972182001.mp4

Naturally, the benefits would go beyond scientific research and international cooperation. As NexGen Space LLC (a consultant company for NASA) recently stated, such a base would be a major stepping stone on the way to Mars. In fact, the company estimated that if such a base included refueling stations, it could cut the cost of any future Mars missions by about $10 billion a year.

And of course, a lunar base would also yield valuable scientific data that would come in handy for future missions. Located far from Earth’s protective magnetic field, astronauts on the Moon (and in circumpolar obit) would be subjected to levels of cosmic radiation that astronauts in orbit around Earth (i.e. aboard the ISS) are not. This data will prove immeasurably useful when plotting upcoming missions to Mars or into deep space.

An additional benefit is the possibility of creating an international presence on the Moon that would ensure that the spirit of the Outer Space Treaty endures. Signed back in 1966 at the height of the “Moon Race”, this treaty stated that “the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind.”

In other words, the treaty was meant to ensure that no nation or space agency could claim anything in space, and that issues of territorial sovereignty would not extend to the celestial sphere. But with multiple agencies discussing plans to build bases on the Moon – including NASA, Roscosmos, and JAXA – it is possible that issues of “Moon sovereignty” might emerge at some point in the future.

http://wpc.50e6.edgecastcdn.net/8050E6/mmedia-http/download/public/videos/2016/02/049/orig-1602_049_AR_EN.mp4

And having a base that could facilitate regular trips to the Moon would also be a boon for the burgeoning space tourism industry. Beyond offering trips into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) aboard Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson has also talked about the possibility of offering trips to the Moon by 2043. Golden Spike, another space tourism company, also hopes to offer round-trip lunar adventures someday (at a reported $750 million a pop).

Other private space ventures that are looking to make the Moon a tourist destination include Space Adventures and Excalibur Almaz – both of which are hoping to offer lunar fly-bys (no Moon walks, sorry) for $150 million apiece someday. Many analysts predict that in the coming decade, this industry will begin to (no pun intended) take flight. As such, establishing infrastructure there ahead of time would certainly be beneficial.

“We’re going back to the Moon”. That appeared to be central the message behind the recent symposium and the ESA’s plans for future space exploration. And this time, it seems, we will be staying there! And from there, who knows? The Universe is a big place…

Further Reading: European Space Agency

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