Soyuz TMA-17M Scheduled to Dock On Time Despite Stuck Solar Panel-UPDATE

Soyuz TMA-17M Scheduled to Dock On Time Despite Stuck Solar Panel-UPDATE

UPDATE, July 23:   Later reports said the solar array deployed just before docking, not at docking.

UPDATE, July 22, 2015 11:01 pm EDT:  Soyuz TMA-17M docked with the ISS as scheduled.  The port solar array did not deploy during the trip to ISS, but did upon docking.

ORIGINAL STORY, July 22, 2015, 6:50 pm EDT: Three new crew members for the International Space Station (ISS) lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:02 pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) today, July 22, 2015 (which was 3:02 am July 23 local time at the launch site). Once in orbit, one of the two solar panels on the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft did not deploy, but NASA says that will not affect the scheduled docking with the ISS at 10:46 pm EDT tonight.

NASA calls this mission Soyuz 43S because it is the 43rd Soyuz launched to the ISS.  In a statement that was posted on its ISS website at about 6:30 pm EDT, NASA said “The Soyuz 43S vehicle has achieved a stable orbit … and all antennas have deployed.  However, the port solar array … has not deployed.”  It added that the starboard array deployed as expected.  With no explanation, however, by 6:45 pm EDT NASA had edited that statement to delete any reference to the solar arrays, saying only that the antennas had deployed.

Assuming all goes as planned, the three Soyuz TMA-17M crew — Kjell Lindgren (U.S.), Kimiya Yui (Japan), and Oleg Kononenko (Russia) — will join Scott Kelly (U.S.), Mikhail Kornienko (Russia), and Gennady Padalka (Russia) who are already on the ISS.  Kelly, Kornienko and Padalka arrived in late March and have been the only three aboard since June 11 when the Soyuz TMA-15M crew returned to Earth.  Kelly and Kornienko are embarked on a one-year mission during which time they will see several crew changes; Padalka will return to Earth in September. Typical ISS crews remain for 4-6 month shifts.  Kelly and Kornienko are staying for a year to enable studies of longer duration missions on human physiology and psychology in preparation for eventual trips to Mars.

The landing of the TMA-15M crew, and the launch of the TMA-17M crew, were each delayed by the failure of the Russian Progress M-27M cargo ship in April.   Russian engineers ultimately decided the Progress M-27M failure was due to a “design peculiarity.”   The next in the series, Progress M-28M, was successfully launched on July 3.  The robotic Progress cargo spacecraft and crewed Soyuz spacecraft use different versions of the Soyuz rocket, but the successful Progress M-28M launch helped restore confidence in the Russian systems.

The United States, Russia, Japan, Canada and 11 European countries (through the European Space Agency) are partners in the ISS program.  The ISS has been permanently occupied since November 2000 by international crews on rotating shifts.

Check back here later for updates.


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