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Soyuz MS-06 delivers crew to ISS
In the third manned launch of 2017, the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft carries 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.
Soyuz MS-06 crews:
Read much more about the history of the Russian space program in a richly illustrated, large-format glossy edition:
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