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Soyuz MS-07 docks at ISS
During the fourth and final manned launch of 2017, the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft carried three members of Expeditions 54 and 55 to the International Space Station, ISS. Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Dec. 17, 2017, for a 5.5-month shift aboard the ISS.
Soyuz MS-07 lifts off on Dec. 17, 2017.
Soyuz MS-07 mission at a glance:
Preparations for launch
When the Soyuz MS-07 mission appeared in the ISS flight manifest in 2014, its launch was projected for Nov. 30, 2017. According to original plans, the Soyuz MS-07 crew was to include two Russian and one US astronaut, but, after Roskosmos had made a decision to reduce the Russian crew on the ISS from three to two people, one seat was made available to a Japanese flight engineer.
The flight was later scheduled for December 27 but it was later advanced to Dec. 17, 2017, 04:00 Moscow Time. According to some reports, the launch date was moved forward to avoid the Western Christmas holidays and resulted in the extension of the flight to the ISS from several hours to two days, because on December 17, the spacecraft would enter the orbital plane of the station too far away for a quick rendezvous.
After its assembly at RKK Energia in Korolev, the Soyuz MS-07 was delivered to the Baikonur's spacecraft processing facility at Site 254 on Oct. 2, 2017. On November 9, a Roskosmos team delivered the spacecraft to the large echoless chamber, BEK, for testing of the ship's radio systems, which would be used for operational communications, transmission of telemetry and trajectory measurements during the rendezvous with the ISS. Tests were expected to continue for several days, the state corporation said.
On December 4, the primary and backup crews arrived to Baikonur for training inside their flight-ready spacecraft. The cosmonauts and astronauts were also expected to check their spacesuits, seat liners, review flight dynamics operations and onboard documentation, practice manual control of the spacecraft and work with scientific payloads, perform medical tests and physical activities, Roskosmos said.
The primary crew of the Soyuz MS-07 included Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, the Soyuz commander, and two flight engineers: NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and JAXA astronaut Norishige Kanai. The backup crew consisted of Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopiev, NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst.
On December 5, the primary and backup crews conducted their first training inside the flight-ready Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft which was undergoing preparations at the spacecraft processing facility at Site 254 in Baikonur. The crew members donned their Sokol-KV launch and entry suits and, after suit pressure checks, they took seats inside Soyuz MS-07. They checked the communications system and a laser altimeter, familiarized themselves with onboard documentation, reviewed the flight program and the list of items slated for delivery to the ISS. On the same day, a meeting of the technical management team cleared the spacecraft for loading of propellant components and pressurized gases, Roskosmos said.
The fueling operations were completed on Dec. 7, 2017, and the next day, Soyuz MS-07 was integrated with its launch vehicle adapter. The final inspection of the spacecraft, followed by its encapsulation under payload fairing, took place on Dec. 11, 2017.
Soyuz MS-07 is being prepared for integration with its payload fairing on Dec. 11, 2017.
According to the pre-launch processing schedule, on December 13, the Soyuz MS-07 crews conducted their second and final training session inside the flight-ready spacecraft prior to boarding it on the day of the launch on December 17.
Also on December 13, the payload section, including the spacecraft, the fairing and the adapter, was loaded on a railway trailer and transported to the vehicle assembly building at Site 112 for its integration with the Soyuz-FG rocket and the rollout to the launch pad.
On December 14, the payload section was equipped with the Emergency Escape System, SAS, connected to the third stage of the Soyuz-FG rocket and the resulting upper composite was then integrated with already assembled boosters of the first and second stage. On the same day, the technical management team approved the rollout of the launch vehicle and the spacecraft to the launch pad, which took place in the morning hours of December 15. The rocket left the vehicle assembly building at Site 112 in the pre-dawn hours and was installed onto launch pad No. 5 at Site 1 as the sun was rising over the snow-covered steppe.
According to Roskosmos, the State Commission overseeing the launch was scheduled to meet on December 16 to formally approve the crews for the mission. The commission will then reconvene on the morning of December 17 to review the operations on the launch pad and give the go ahead for the fueling of the launch vehicle, Roskosmos said.
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 51.6 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 later, 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 until 4.8 minutes into the flight. Moments before the second stage completed its firing, 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 10:29:48 Moscow Time.
Immediately after the orbital insertion, NASA confirmed that the spacecraft had successfully deployed its solar arrays and antennas.
According to the Russian mission control in Korolev near Moscow, Soyuz MS-07 entered an initial orbit with the following parameters:
Rendezvous and docking with ISS
Upon reaching its initial orbit, Soyuz MS-07 embarked on a two-day rendezvous profile with the ISS, which culminated with an automated docking at the MIM1/Rassvet module on the Russian segment of the station on Dec. 19, 2017, at 11:39 Moscow Time (3:39 a.m. EST) or four minutes ahead of the planned time of 11:43:02 Moscow Time. At the time, the two spacecraft were flying over Italy.
Following routine pressure checks, the hatch on the Rassvet side of the docking port connecting the two spacecraft was opened at 5:39 a.m. EST, followed by the Soyuz hatch at 5:55 a.m. EST (13:55 Moscow Time) as the spacecraft were flying over the Eastern Australia.
After the departure of the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft with its crew from the ISS in February 2018, Expedition 54 aboard the station will be considered completed and the remaining members of the Soyuz MS-07 crew will officially begin the 55th long-duration expedition on the outpost.
The crew of Soyuz MS-07 was scheduled to remain onboard the ISS for 122 days and return to Earth in April 2018.
Soyuz MS-07 crews:
Read much more about the history of the Russian space program in a richly illustrated, large-format glossy edition:
Mission patches for Expeditions 53/54 and the Soyuz MS-07 mission. Credit: Roskosmos / NASA
Members of the Soyuz MS-07 crew during familiarization training in the descent module of the spacecraft inside the processing facility at Site 254 on Dec. 5, 2017. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
Soyuz MS-07 returns to the processing facility at Site 254 on Dec. 7, 2017, after the completion of fueling. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
Soyuz MS-07 is being integrated with its launch vehicle adapter on Dec. 8, 2017. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
On Dec. 13, 2017, Soyuz MS-07 left the spacecraft processing building at Site 254 for a trip to the vehicle assembly building at Site 112 where it was to be integrated with its Soyuz-FG launch vehicle. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
The upper composite of the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft is being integrated with booster stages of the Soyuz-FG rocket on Dec. 14, 2017. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
Soyuz FG with Soyuz MS-07 is erected on the launch pad on Dec. 15, 2017. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
Members of Soyuz MS-07 crew bid farewell to well-wishers at the base of the Soyuz rocket shortly before boarding their spacecraft on Dec. 17, 2017. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Soyuz MS-07 lifts off on Dec. 17, 2017. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Soyuz MS-07 approaches ISS on Dec. 19, 2017. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Expedition 54 shortly after the arrival of the Soyuz MS-07 crew on Dec. 19, 2017. Credit: NASA