Saturday, November 22, 2014

Soyuz Rolls Out to Launch Pad for Sunday's Lift Off, Commission Approves New ISS Crew

The gantry arms close around the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft to secure the rocket at the launch pad on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launch of the Soyuz rocket is scheduled for Nov. 24 and will carry Expedition 42 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA , and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency into orbit to begin their five and a half month mission on the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

A trio of new Expedition 42 crew members is in its final preparations before Sunday’s launch and six-hour ride aboard a Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). The rocket with the Soyuz capsule rolled out to the launch pad Friday morning at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. On Saturday, the state commission at Baikonur has approved the new ISS crew. "Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, a European Space Agency's astronaut and the ISS flight engineer Samantha Cristoforetti, as well as NASA astronaut and the leader of the new ISS-43 expedition Terry Virts will fly into orbit. The launch is scheduled for November 24 at 0:01 a.m. Moscow time (Nov. 23, 21:01 GMT)," Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) representative said.

According to Roscosmos, the launch will be administered from the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site number 31, from where Progress cargo spacecraft usually depart.

Different versions of the Soyuz spacecraft have been flying for almost five decades and many traditions have developed over that time. This week the international crew planted a tree on a boulevard in Kazakhstan, adding to the trees planted by every astronaut before launch. On Sunday, Cristoforetti will sign the door of the "cosmonaut hotel" before leaving.

Despite its age, Soyuz has been updated and improved continually and it will deliver the crew to their new home orbiting Earth 400 km high in under six hours.

To get there so quickly, Expedition 42/43 will be propelled by the Soyuz rocket to 28 800 km/h accelerating 50 km/h on average every second for the first nine minutes after liftoff.

Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA, left, Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), center, and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA), right, pose for a photo at the conclusion of the press conference, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The mission to the International Space Station is set to launch Nov. 24 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA, left, Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), center, and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA), right, pose for a photo at the conclusion of the press conference, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The mission to the International Space Station is set to launch Nov. 24 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Following a vertical liftoff, the Soyuz-FG rocket will be heading east to enter an initial orbit with an inclination 51.6 degrees toward the Equator. The four boosters of the first stage were scheduled to drop off slightly less than two minutes in flight, following by the separation of the second stage 4.7 minutes after the liftoff. The third stage should insert Soyuz TMA-15M into a 200 by 242-kilometer parking orbit after slightly less than nine minutes of a powered flight.

Without any additional maneuvers the 7,220-kilogram spacecraft would remain in its orbit for around 30 hours, making 20 revolutions around the Earth.

At the time, the station was expected to be in a 409 by 434-kilometer orbit, 24.6 degrees away from the spacecraft.

Final docking maneuvers, which include a fly around of the ISS, a period of station-keeping and berthing was scheduled to begin at 5:30 a.m. Moscow Time on November 24. The docking was scheduled to take place on November 24, 2014, at 4:53 a.m. Moscow Time.

The new crew has already undergone docking training on the ISS simulators and confirmed spacesuit pressure integrity by performing a leak check.

Cristofetti, the first Italian female astronaut, has no space flight experience. Shkaplerov and Virts have already been on a space mission once.

The expedition will last for 169 days. The backup crew consists of Russian Oleg Kononenko, astronauts Kimiya Yui (JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and Kjell Lindgren (NASA).

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