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Soyuz MS-06 completes a successful ISS mission
In the third manned launch of 2017, the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft carried three members of Expeditions 53 and 54 to the International Space Station, ISS. Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr Misurkin and NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the early hours of Sept. 13, 2017.
The Soyuz MS-06 crew during familiarization training inside their spacecraft on Aug. 28, 2017.
Soyuz MS-06 mission at a glance:
Preparations for launch
As of 2014, the launch of Soyuz MS-06 was planned for Sept. 30, 2017, but the routine reshuffle of the ISS schedule eventually shifted the mission a couple of weeks forward.
For the Soyuz MS-06 mission, Roskosmos assigned Vehicle No. 734, which was bumped from the Soyuz MS-04 mission due to a leak in its thermal control system.
The Soyuz MS-06 crew poses for photographers at Site 254 in Baikonur on Aug. 28, 2017.
As the Soyuz MS-06 launch campaign was approaching its final phase, the primary and backup crews arrived at Baikonur on August 27, 2017, and the next day, their members conducted familiarization training inside the actual spacecraft. At the time, the vehicle was undergoing final preparations inside the processing building at Site 254. Also, on August 28, a meeting of the technical management approved the loading of propellant components and pressurized gases on the Soyuz MS-06, marking the beginning of irreversible operations for the mission. After the familiarization training, the crews returned to Star City, where they completed preparations for flight.
On Aug. 31, RKK Energia announced that the loading of the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft with propellant and pressurized gasses had been completed, after which the vehicle had been returned to the processing building and installed into its test rig for further work. Around the same time, the crew members took their final exams at Star City, qualifying them for flying the Soyuz.
On Sept. 1, 2017, Soyuz MS-06 was connected to a ring adapter, which serves as an interface with the launch vehicle.
On Sept. 5, engineers from RKK Energia had conducted the final visual inspection of the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft before it was lowered into a horizontal position and rolled inside its payload fairing.
On Sept. 6, the primary and backup crews arrived at Baikonur for final preparations and launch of Soyuz MS-06. The next day, the crew members conducted final inspection of their spacecraft and its interior, after which, the payload section with Soyuz MS-06 was loaded on a rail trailer and transported to the vehicle assembly building at Site 112, where on September 8, it was integrated with its Soyuz-FG launch vehicle. On the same day, the technical management approved the rollout of the rocket to the launch pad, which took place as scheduled on September 10, 2017.
After the vehicle had arrived at the launch facility and was installed in vertical position, the launch personnel began operations of the first day on the pad, Roskosmos said. The State Commission overseeing the launch met again on September 11 and formally approved the crew of the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft and Expedition 53/54.
The officials should meet again on September 12 to review the results of the main tests on the pad and to clear the launch vehicle for fueling.
A Soyuz-FG rocket carrying the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft lifted off as scheduled on Sept. 13, 2017, at 00:17:02.407 Moscow Time (5:17 p.m. EDT on Sept. 12) from Pad No. 5 at Site 1 in Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Propelled by the simultaneous thrust of the four engines of the first stage and the single engine of the second stage, the rocket headed east to align its ascent trajectory with an orbital plane inclined 51.67 degrees toward the Equator. Slightly less than two minutes into the flight, the ship's emergency escape system was jettisoned, immediately followed by the separation of the four boosters of the first stage. Almost exactly 40 seconds after the separation of the first stage, the payload fairing protecting the spacecraft in the dense atmosphere split into two halves and fell away.
The second (core) stage of the booster continued firing for less than five minutes into the flight. Moments before the second stage completed its firing 4.7 minutes into the flight, the four-chamber engine of the third stage ignited, firing through a lattice structure connecting the two boosters. Moments after the separation of the core booster, the tail section of the third stage split into three segments and fell away.
The third stage continued firing until the command to cut off its engines 8.7 minutes into the flight at 00:25:50.26 Moscow Time on September 13 (5:26 p.m. EDT on September 12).
Immediately after the orbital insertion, mission control confirmed that the spacecraft had successfully deployed its solar arrays and antennas.
According to the Russian mission control in Korolev near Moscow, Soyuz MS-06 entered an initial orbit with the following parameters:
Rendezvous and docking with ISS
Upon reaching its initial orbit, Soyuz MS-06 embarked on a quick four-orbit, six-hour rendezvous profile with the ISS, which resulted with the docking at the MIM2/Poisk module on the Russian segment of the station on Sept. 13, 2017, at 05:55 Moscow Time or just two minutes ahead of planned time of 05:57:49 Moscow Time (Sept. 12, 2017, at 10:57 p.m. EDT). At the time, the two spacecraft were flying over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America.
Following routine pressure checks, the hatches between the transport spacecraft and the station were opened at 08:08 Moscow Time (1:08 a.m. EDT) on Sept. 13, 2017.
The crew of Soyuz MS-06 was scheduled to remain onboard the ISS for five and half months and return back to Earth in February 2018. After the departure of the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft from ISS with crew members of Expedition 52 and 53, Expedition 54 will officially begin onboard the station.
On Feb. 2, 2018, Aleksandr Misurkin and his Expedition 54 team mate Anton Shkaplerov, from the Soyuz MS-07 crew, began a spacewalk on the exterior of the ISS. The main task of the sortie was to dismantle and discard an ShA-317A-II radio receiver on the Lira high-gain antenna, ONA, which was mounted on the instrument section of the Zvezda Service Module, SM, since its launch in July 2000. According to NASA, the 60-pound device will be jettisoned from the station in retrograde motion and an angle of 30 degrees to avoid any future contact with the station before it reenters the atmosphere.
The spacewalking cosmonauts will then install the new wide-band communications system on the Lira antenna. The new device will eventually enable nearly round-the-clock transmissions from the Russian Segment of the ISS to ground control via the Luch relay satellites, Roskosmos said.
Time allows, the cosmonauts also planned to take detailed photos of the SKK No. 9-SM replaceable pallet and retrieve Biorisk platform and Test No. 17, No. 18 exposure experiments from the Pirs Docking Compartment, SO1.
The opening of the hatch on the SO1, serving as an airlock, took place exactly as scheduled at 18:34 Moscow Time (10:34 a.m. EDT) and the spacewalk was expected to last around six hours 40 minutes.
Around one hour 34 minutes into the spacewalk, as cosmonauts took their positions on the aft section of the Zvezda, the module's antenna successfully folded into its launch position under commands from mission control. It gave the cosmonauts access to its electronics unit, where the replacements had to be performed.
After some struggle, the old avionics box was finally removed and thrown into space at 22:40 Moscow Time (2:40 p.m. EDT). Around five hours into the spacewalk, the Russian mission control reported that telemetry from the newly installed electronics unit showed good operation and normal conditions.
Around 5 p.m. EDT (01:00 Moscow Time on February 3), the refurbished ONA antenna made its first movement but got stuck on the old ATV target. Two subsequent attempts by mission control to deploy the antenna also did not produce results, as the spacewalk crossed its 6.5-hour mark. Around 5:20 p.m. EDT (01:20 Moscow Time on February 3), mission control recommended spacewalkers to manually deploy the antenna. The antenna was finally brought into its fully deployed position some seven hours after the start of the spacewalk. However, it turned out, that during its troubled deployment, the antenna had overshot its original position (Position 1) and ended up on the "port" side of the Zvezda (Position 3) or 180 degrees away from its original location! It was still expected to operate normally, but mission control planned to do additional evaluation of the events, which led to the confusion during the deployment.
The cosmonauts then photographed the work area, including the aft docking port on the Zvezda and other critical systems, before returning to the Pirs Docking Compartment. Both cosmonauts were inside around 6:30 p.m. EDT. The hatch was finally closed at 6:47 p.m. EDT, after eight-hour 13-minute spacewalk -- the longest for the Russian crew and fifth longest in space history.
This spacewalk became the fourth in Misurkin’s career and the second for Shkaplerov, as well as the 207th spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance, NASA said. It is also 44th Russian spacewalk on the ISS. Misurkin conducted spacewalk in the new Orlan-MKS spacesuit and Shkaplerov was wearing an older Orlan-MK suit. Both of the cosmonauts' suits were marked with blue stripes.
After five and a half months in space, the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft is scheduled to depart the International Space Station, ISS, and land on February 28, 2018. Onboard, the vehicle will carry the same members of the 53rd and 54th long-duration expedition who rode it into orbit back in September 2017: Russian commander Aleksandr Misurkin and NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba. Misurkin will occupy the center seat inside the Soyuz' descent module, with Vande Hei to his left and Acaba sitting in the right seat.
On February 26, at 2:15 p.m. EST, the ISS crew held a symbolic ceremony of handing over the command over the station to Anton Shkaplerov, who will remain on the ISS along with Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai from the Soyuz MS-07 crew.
In the meantime, back on Earth, aircraft and amphibious vehicles from the Central Military District of Russia, which is responsible for supporting the Russian spacecraft landings, were deployed in Kazakhstan within a range of the expected primary and backup touchdown areas. The search and rescue fleet included 12 Mi-8 helicopters, three An-26 and two An-12 fixed-wing aircraft. On the ground, 16 vehicles were mobilized in the support of the Soyuz MS-06 landing. The total number of search and rescue personnel exceeded 200 people, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.
According to NASA, the weather deteriorated in Kazakhstan, bringing snow, freezing rain and overcast skies into the area in the 48 hours preceding the landing.
In preparation for the departure, the hatches between the MIM2 Poisk module and the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft were closed at 22:58 Moscow Time (2:58 p.m. EST) on February 27.
The Soyuz MS-06 undocked from the ISS as scheduled at 02:08:30 Moscow Time on February 28 (6:08 p.m. EST on February 27), marking the official end of the 54th long-duration expedition on the ISS and the beginning of Expedition 55. At the time, the two spacecraft were flying over the south-eastern Mongolia.
Beginning at 02:11:30 Moscow Time, the Soyuz MS-06 conducted 8-second and 15-second firings with its small thrusters, which were designed to increase its distance from ISS to around 12 miles by the time of the deorbiting maneuver.
At the time of the Soyuz MS-06's departure from the station, the weather forecast at the landing time called for a cloud cover at 700 feet, visibility 3 miles, wind speed 12 knots and the temperature of 12F degrees.
After a two-and-a-half-hour autonomous flight, at 04:38:39 Moscow Time (8:38 p.m. EST on February 27), the Soyuz MS-06 fired its main engine for 4 minutes and 39 seconds against the direction of the flight, as it was flying over the South Atlantic.
The braking maneuver completing at 04:43:18 Moscow Time slowed down the vehicle by 128 meters per second, pushing the spacecraft from its orbit and toward reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. At 05:05:51 Moscow Time, the Habitation Module, BO, and the Aggregate Compartment, PAO, separated from the Descent Module, SA, carrying the crew.
At 05:08:41 Moscow Time, the Descent Module entered the dense atmosphere and after another 1.5 minutes, the capsule began experiencing some aerodynamic lift allowing a less steep descent trajectory than it would follow in an uncontrolled ballistic entry. Another five minutes later, as the air resistance increased sharply and the capsule dissipated its speed, the crew experienced maximum deceleration of about 4g. Another two minutes later, at 05:17:05 Moscow Time, the parachute system initiated a three-stage opening sequence at an altitude of around 11 kilometers.
The Descent Module of the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft landed as scheduled on Feb. 28, 2018, at 05:31:21 Moscow Time (9:31 p.m. EST on February 27), around 27 minutes after the local sunrise. The landing completed a 168-day, 2,688-orbit mission. The projected touchdown point was located 146 kilometers southeast from the town of Zhezkazgan in Kazakhstan known as Zone 6. According to the latest publicly available predictions, the descent module was heading to a point with geographic coordinates 47.19 degrees North latitude and 69.34 degrees East longitude.
Planned timeline for landing of the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft on Feb. 28, 2018:
Soyuz MS-06 crews:
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Mission patch for the Soyuz MS-06 crew. Credit: Roskosmos/NASA
Soyuz MS-06 returns to processing building at Site 254 after fueling on Aug. 31, 2017. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
Soyuz MS-06 shortly after its integration with its launch vehicle adapter on Sept. 1, 2017. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
Soyuz MS-06 is being prepared for encapsulation inside its protective fairing on Sept. 5, 2017. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
On Sept. 7, 2017, the payload section with Soyuz MS-06 was loaded on the rail trailer and transported to the vehicle assembly building at Site 112. Click to enlarge. Credit : RKK Energia
Final assembly of the Soyuz FG rocket with Soyuz MS-06. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Soyuz FG rocket with Soyuz MS-06 is installed on the launch pad on Sept. 10, 2017. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos