Tag Archives: Soyuz TMA-20M

More Stuff Going Up and Down: GSLV with Insat 3DR, and Soyuz TMA-20M lands

This was a busy week for spaceflight.  In addition to the ongoing SpaceX investigation and the OSIRIS-REx launch, there was also a launch from India and a landing in Kazakhastan.

First off, the successful return of Aleksey Ovchinin, Oleg Skripochka, and Jeffrey Williams aboard Soyuz TMA-20M earlier this week:

You may remember them as the crew that had this awesome mission patch:
Soyuz-TMA-20M-Mission-Patch

And then from Sriharikota, India’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre, an all-domestic GSLV rocket blasted off, delivering the Insat 3DR weather satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit.  The GSLV has had a difficult path, as various components are replaced or added or removed or changed and with an unfortunately high rate of failures.  So this launch was particularly important for ISRO, which seeks to become a viable international competitor in the commercial launch market.  Their rockets are cheaper even than Falcon 9, and GSLV’s increased performance over the highly reliable PSLV is critical in order to capture valuable geosynchronous business.  (GSLV actually stands for Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle.)  What’s more, ISRO will be depending on GLSV to place their next Chandrayaan moon probe into lunar transfer orbit — and that one will be their most ambitious deep space probe yet, featuring orbiter, lander, and rover in one mission.  But until then, check out the Insat 3DR launch.  Notice one unique feature: the core stage is solid, while the strap-ons are hypergolic, so the plume is inverted from what you’d expect on an Atlas or Long March launch.  It’s an intriguing hybrid of a rocket — solid core, hypergolic strap-on boosters, and a cryogenic upper stage.  And perhaps it is finally coming into its own.

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Soyuz TMA-20M Launches to the ISS!

Soyuz TMA-20M, carrying Aleksey Ovchinin, Oleg Skripochka, and Jeffrey Williams blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today.

The crew will join Expedition 47 aboard the ISS.  This is the final flight of Soyuz TMA-M; the next flight will feature the next generation of this venerable spacecraft type, Soyuz MS.  They also have a pretty awesome mission patch:

Soyuz-TMA-20M-Mission-Patch

The three stars in the upper left quadrant represent the three cosmonauts.  The black bear is from the city of Rybinsk’s coat of arms, which is where Ovchinin is from.  The gray crane is for Skripochka, who flew on Soyuz TMA-1M and used the same symbol then, so it bookends this Soyuz variant.  The bald eagle of course represents the American astronaut, carrying the “swoosh” vector from NASA’s meatball on its beak.  In the middle is the silhouette of a Soyuz as seen nose-on before docking, with the Roscosmos logo, and on the top is a stylized silhouette of the ISS, their destination.  The shield’s quarters are separated by red white and blue bands, in the specific shades used on the Russian and American flags.

A lot of mission patches are cool, but this one’s really cool!

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