Tag Archives: Soyuz MS-02

Space updates: Soyuz MS-02 returns, John Glenn to fly again, Chinasat 16, and Cassini’s next step

I’ve been way busy the last few days, so I regret I have not posted as often as I’d like.  But I’ll start making up for that.  😉  First off, the landing of Soyuz MS-02 from the ISS!  The imagery is great; you even get to see the capsule venting hydrogen peroxide as it descends under parachute (at which point the thrusters are no longer useful, so they dump the propellant to make it safer on the ground).  This completes the Expedition 50 mission.  On board were Sergey Ryzhikov, Andrey Borisenko and Shane Kimbrough.  Two crew will launch on the next Soyuz, due to funding constraints at Roscosmos which has forced them to make the difficult decision to reduce their crew size.  On a positive note, the commander of Expedition 51, who took command upon this crew’s departure, is Peggy Whitson, and NASA has just decided to extend her mission by three months.  She currently holds the female spaceflight endurance record, and by the end of her extended mission, will also capture the American spaceflight endurance record.

Meanwhile, in Florida, crews are preparing the next Cygnus vehicle, named for astronaut John Glenn, to be launched aboard an Atlas V to the ISS.  This trip will carry experiments to create new targeted chemo drugs in microgravity for Oncolinx (an experiment which will consume a lot of crew time; it’s stuff that cannot be done anywhere else), a crystal growth experiment that goes beyond the basic science of previous experiments and aims to build new radiation detectors, a mini greenhouse (the most sophisticated sent to space to date) with wheat and Arabidopsis seeds, 34 Cubesats in the pressurized compartment (to be deployed later from Kibo), and 4 Cubesats to be deployed by Cygnus itself after departing the station.  Finally, there are two experiments to be carried after Cygnus has completed its primary mission — the third SAFIRE test to better understand fire in microgravity, and three small reentry bodies that will be ejected prior to Cygnus’ reentry, a process which they are expected to survive.  They will splash down in the ocean and sink, however, so they aren’t expected to be recovered.  Instead, they will be continuously transmitting temperature data via the Iridium constellation, allowing testing of new heat shield materials under real-world circumstances.  Note: launch was delayed from March to April 18 due to a launch vehicle technical issue which has been resolved.

And although Falcon 9 has taken a lot of business away from Chinese launch vehicles, they still have a solid lock on their burgeoning government program.  A Long March 3B blasted off from Xichang with the Shijan 13 (Chinasat 16) communications satellite on board.  This is the highest-bandwidth spacecraft that China has launched, and in addition to acting as a technology demonstrator for several projects (including ion propulsion and laser communications), it will provide high-bandwidth Internet service to airline, ship, and train passengers in and near China.

And lastly, on a bittersweet note, yesterday JPL uploaded the instructions for Cassini’s next Titan flyby.  In six days the Cassini spacecraft is moving towards a major milestone — the last flyby of Titan.  This flyby will be used as a gravity assist to move the spacecraft from its current ring-grazing phase to the final phase of the mission, called the Grand Finale.  It will fly closer to Saturn that anything ever has before, completing several orbits before impacting Saturn in September.  But it will return astonishing data that could not be captured any other way, including passes through the tenuous outer atmosphere of Saturn and through the D ring itself.

Leave a comment

Filed under Space

ISS arrivals; Soyuz MS-02 and Cygnus “SS Alan Poindexter”

The ISS is a busy place!  They’ve had two arrivals in the past few days.  First off, Soyuz MS-02 arrived following a two-day chase.  It docked to the Poisk module located at the zenith port of Zvezda’s forward compartment.  This lovely time-lapse has the perfect musical score to go along:

And now, the Cygnus OA-5 mission, with the spacecraft “SS Alan Poindexter”, has arrived at the ISS.  Crews on board captured the spacecraft with the SSRMS; ground controllers later took over and completed the berthing remotely while the crew slept, mating the spacecraft to the nadir port of the Unity node of the ISS.

Orbital ATK names each of their cargo vehicles, and the tradition they’ve chosen is to name each for a deceased astronaut.  Alan Poindexter, this spacecraft’s namesake, joined the astronaut corps in 1998, later flying on two missions, STS-122 and STS-131.  The latter was the longest mission for the Space Shuttle Discovery, at 15 days 2 hours, 47 min, 11 seconds.  Poindexter retired from NASA in 2010, one of many realizing they would never get another chance to fly into space.  He tragically passed away at the age of 50 in 2012 in a personal watercraft accident.  But thanks to Orbital ATK, his name at least can fly in space one more time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Space

Ups and Downs in Spaceflight: Soyuz MS-02 launches, more information on Schiaparelli

First off, the happy news!  Soyuz MS-02 launched successfully from Baikonur Cosmodrome yesterday.  Aboard were Sergey Ryzhikov, Andrei Borisenko, and Shane Kimbrough.  The mission was delayed a month due to technical issues with the spacecraft, but the repaired vehicle is performing well.  They will arrive at the ISS tomorrow; the longer two-day approach was selected to allow more opportunity to test the new Soyuz MS series.

And now the less happy news: ESA has analyzed the data from the Schiaparelli lander, and although they still do not know what happened exactly, they have a better picture and it isn’t good.  The only data they have comes from monitoring of its telemetry during descent.  The entry sequence was nominal through atmospheric entry and parachute deploy, but then events started to deviate.  The signal indicating parachute and backshell jettison came early, and then the engines ignited and the descent radar was switched on.  However, they only appear to have burned for 3-4 seconds, and it isn’t clear whether all nine engines fired, nor what altitude the probe was actually at.  They were expecting the engines to fire for about 30 seconds.  At this point, they do not know whether backshell jettison was too high, or whether something caused a false indication of landing leading to premature engine cutoff (which is what killed Mars Polar Lander), or whether it actually came in much lower than expected, leading to it hitting the ground just a few second after ignition.  They actually got about 600 MB of data during the descent, so they have a lot more data to look at.  But although ESA hasn’t completely given up, it really looks like the lander is dead.  Hopefully the second lander, in two years, will have better fortune; Mars is difficult, extremely difficult, but it rewards persistence.

Leave a comment

Filed under Space

Soyuz MS-02 Launch Delayed

Soyuz MS-02 has been undergoing preflight processing at Baikonur Cosmodrome, and the three crewmen (Sergey Ryzhikov, Andrey Borisenko, and Shane Kimbrough) had flown to Baikonur to begin preflight activities pending launch on Friday.  However, the launch has now officially been delayed indefinitely, and the three have flown back to Star City, outside Moscow.  The spacecraft, s/n 732, was encapsulated in its payload fairing and returned to its vertical position for additional fit checks prior to integration with the Soyuz-FG rocket.  However, during those tests a short circuit was detected.  The short apparently was caused during encapsulation, since the spacecraft had passed testing prior, but unfortunately it will not be possible to locate the short without removing the fairing.  This alone sets the schedule back.  Roscosmos has estimated that if the short turns out to be in the orbital module, it will take weeks to fix, but if it’s in the service module, it could take months.  In that case, they’d likely go to plan B and start processing spacecraft s/n 733 for the Soyuz MS-02 mission, and buy a little more time to get 732 fixed and ready to fly as Soyuz MS-03.

The ISS currently is on a skeleton crew, as the current crew of three awaits the next inbound Soyuz crew.  There is no timetable yet for when that will change.  It does underscore the need for a second crew transfer method, but neither CST-100 or Dragon is likely to be ready before 2018.

(reference: Anatoly Zak’s RussianSpaceWeb blog)

Leave a comment

Filed under Space