Russia Launches New Version of Soyuz Spacecraft with Three ISS Crew – UPDATE

Russia Launches New Version of Soyuz Spacecraft with Three ISS Crew – UPDATE

UPDATE, JULY 9, 2016, 12:15 AM EDT.  Docking was successful at 12:06 am EDT.

ORIGINAL STORY, JULY 6, 2016, 10:47 PM EDT:  Russia successfully launched a new version of its Soyuz spacecraft, Soyuz MS-01, at 9:36 pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) tonight from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (7:36 am July 7 local time at the launch site).  Aboard are three new crew members for the International Space Station (ISS) — an American, a Japanese and a Russian.

Soyuz MS-01 is delivering NASA’s Kate Rubins, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) Takuya Onishi, and Russia’s Roscosmos space state corporation’s Anatoly Ivanishin to the ISS.  Because it is a new version of the spacecraft, the crew is taking the longer 34-orbit route to the ISS so the new systems can be tested out.  Docking is scheduled for 12:12 am Saturday morning.

Soyuz MS-01 on launch pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome just before liftoff on July 6, 2016 EDT.  Screenshot from NASA TV.

The first Soyuz spacecraft was launched in 1967.  It has been upgraded many times over the decades.  Although the outer shell remains basically the same, the interior and its systems have changed with advances in technology.  The most recent version was Soyuz TMA-M.  The last of that type, Soyuz TMA-20M, is currently docked to the ISS ready to return its three-man crew to Earth in September:  NASA’s Jeff Williams and Roscosmos’s Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin.

Soyuz MS incorporates a number of changes: upgraded fully redundant thrusters, improved shielding against micrometeoroid orbital debris (MMOD), improved solar arrays yielding increased electrical power, redundant electrical motors for the docking probe, upgraded Kurs docking system with a phased array antenna that does not need to be retracted, improved satellite navigation system, improved communications through Russia’s Luch satellites, and a new digital video transmitter and encoder to provide engineering video of the spacecraft’s approach to ISS for docking.

Rubins, Onishi and Ivanishin will remain aboard the ISS for four months, returning in October.

NASA’s Kate Rubins, Rocosmos’s Anatoly Ivanishin, JAXA’s Takuya Onishi at the Cosmonaut Hotel, Baikonur, Kazkahstan, June 30, 2016.  Credit: NASA/Alexander Vysotsky.

Rubins and Onishi are making their first spaceflights.  Rubins is a cancer biologist; Onishi is a former 767 airline pilot.  Ivanishin is a fighter pilot; this is his second spaceflight.

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