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Soyuz MS-08 arrives at ISS
In the first manned launch of 2018, the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft delivered three members of Expeditions 55 and 56 to the International Space Station, ISS. Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 21, 2018, for a five-month shift aboard the orbiting outpost.
Members of the Soyuz MS-08 crew during suiting up operations on March 21, 2018, (front row - primary crew): Ricky Arnold, Oleg Artemyev, Drew Feustel; (back row - backup crew): Aleksei Ovchninin, Nick Heig.
Soyuz MS-08 mission at a glance:
Preparations for launch
As of 2014, the launch of Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft was scheduled for March 30, 2017, but by October 1 of the same year, the mission was shifted to March 10, 2018. On December 29, 2017, Roskosmos announced that the launch of Soyuz MS-08 was set for March 15, 2018, however, by the middle of January 2018, the mission was rescheduled for March 21.
On Feb. 15, Roskosmos team completed electric tests of the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft in Baikonur and placed the spacecraft into the 17T523M vacuum chamber for tests, which were expected to last several days.
On March 4, the primary and backup crews of the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft arrived in Baikonur and the next day they conducted familiarization training in the flight-worthy vehicle undergoing processing at Site 254.
The cosmonauts and astronauts tried on their Sokol-KV spacesuits, and after their leak tests, they took seats inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft, Roskosmos said. The crews checked the communications equipment and a laser range finder, reviewed their onboard documentation, a list of deliverable cargo and the flight program.
According to Roskosmos, the primary and backup crews were also scheduled to practice manual rendezvous maneuvers, learn the operation of the new Rassvet-3BM communications system and receive instructions on the use of safety equipment and emergency operations. A special attention will be paid to the Ekon-M experiment, which involves environmental monitoring of Earth's regions, Roskosmos said.
Also on March 5, managers responsible for the pre-flight processing of the Soyuz MS-08 held a meeting which approved the fueling of the spacecraft with propellant components and pressurized gases. The fueling operations began on March 6 and the next day, the fueled spacecraft was returned to Site 254 and installed in vertical position inside its access rig for further processing.
On March 12, 2018, specialists from RKK Energia integrated the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft with its launch vehicle adapter ring which will serve as an interface with the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle.
On March 14, RKK Energia specialists conducted the final visual inspection of Soyuz MS-08, after which the spacecraft was rolled inside the payload firing which will protect it during the ascent through the atmosphere following its launch on March 21.
On March 16, members of the primary and backup crews conducted their final inspection of the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft in launch configuration, one more time familiarizing themselves with the ship's flight controls and checking various systems, RKK Energia said. The cosmonauts and astronauts also had an opportunity to inspect the Progress MS-09 cargo ship undergoing preparations for launch on July 10, 2018.
On the same day, after the inspection by the crew, the payload section with the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft was lowered into horizontal position, loaded on a railway platform and transported from Site 254 to Site 112 for integration with the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle.
On March 17, the payload section with the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft was integrated with the third stage of the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle and with the Emergency Escape System, SAS. The entire upper composite was then loaded onto the mobile transporter-erector and connected to the second stage of the Soyuz-FG rocket.
Upon the completion of the assembly, the technical management and the State Commission overseeing the testing of manned space complexes met to review the readiness of the Soyuz FG launch vehicle. The officials gave green light to the rollout of the rocket to the launch pad No. 5 at Site 1 on March 19, 2018, which took place in the early hours of the day, in line with on old tradition. After the installation of the rocket on the pad and lifting of the access gantry, the rest of March 19 was to be spent on technical work at the launch facility, general tests and the review of the telemetry, Roskosmos said.
The State Commission met again on March 20 to formally approve the crew members for the mission, followed by the traditional press-conference of the primary and backup crews. The final deliverable cargo was expected to be loaded aboard Soyuz MS-08 on the day of the launch on March 21, 2018.
A Soyuz-FG launch vehicle with the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft rolls out to the launch pad on March 19, 2018, with defunct launch facilities of the Energia-Buran system at Site 110 visible on the background.
A Soyuz-FG launch vehicle with the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft lifts off on March 21, 2018.
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 and its separation from the spacecraft at 20:53 Moscow Time (1:53 p.m. EDT).
According to the mission control in Korolev, the separation of the Soyuz MS-08 from the third stage of the launch vehicle took place into an orbit with the following parameters:
Without any additional maneuvers, the spacecraft was guaranteed to remain in its initial orbit for around 20 revolutions around the Earth during the next 30 hours, before reentering the Earth's atmosphere due to air friction.
Rendezvous and docking of Soyuz MS-08 at ISS
Upon reaching its planned orbit, Soyuz MS-08 was 246.5 degrees away and below the ISS, which at the time was circling the planet in the 404.41 by 421.6-kilometer orbit with an inclination 51.66 degrees toward the Equator.
The mission was designed to follow a two-day (54-hour, 34-orbit) rendezvous profile with the station. According to the Russian mission control in Korolev, on March 22, 2018, the Soyuz was scheduled to perform two orbital maneuvers during the 3rd and 4th orbit, followed by the third orbit correction during the 17th orbit of the flight, which would bring the spacecraft into the vicinity of the station, according to the following planned timeline:
Following its orbit corrections, Soyuz MS-08 was scheduled to begin an autonomous rendezvous with the ISS around 20:18:08 Moscow Time on March 23, 2018, aiming to lock sensors of its Kurs-NA rendezvous system onto the station during the 34th orbit of the mission.
The final maneuvers, including a flyaround of the ISS, a short station-keeping period and berthing were scheduled to commence at 22:18:03 Moscow Time on March 23, 2018.
The final approach was expected to culminate with an automated docking at the MIM2/Poisk module on the Russian segment of the station on March 23, 2018, at 22:41 Moscow Time (3:41 p.m. EDT). The actual docking took place just a minute earlier at 22:40 Moscow Time (3:40 p.m. EDT).
The hatches between the spacecraft and the station were scheduled to open around two hours after docking, following the routine leak checks in the docking interface. Aboard the station, three members of the Soyuz MS-08 crew will join Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai, who launched on Dec. 17, 2017, on the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft.
Soyuz MS-08 crews:
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Soyuz MS-08 is loaded into a vacuum chamber for tests on Feb. 15, 2018.
Soyuz MS-08 is being prepared for fueling on March 6, 2018.
Soyuz MS-08 returns to its processing building on March 7, 2018, after fueling operations.
Soyuz MS-08 is being integrated with its launch vehicle adapter on March 12, 2018.
Soyuz MS-08 is being lowered into horizontal position for integration with its payload fairing on March 14, 2018.
Soyuz MS-08 is transported to the vehicle processing building on March 16, 2018.
Soyuz-FG rocket with Soyuz mS-08 is installed on the launch pad on March 19, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA
Crew board Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft on the launch pad on March 21, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA
Soyuz MS-08 shortly before liftoff on March 21, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA
Soyuz MS-08 lifts off on March 21, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA