Soyuz TMA-12M arrives at International Space Station after delay

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Soyuz TMA-12M, a Russian spacecraft carrying a crew of three, arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) at 2353 UTC yesterday, after a technical setback prevented a planned rendezvous and docking on Tuesday.

Soyuz TMA-12M launches from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station.
Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

The spacecraft, which launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2117 UTC on Tuesday (3:17 AM, Wednesday local time), was originally scheduled to dock with the space station at 0304 UTC on Wednesday. It was not in the proper orientation to execute one of the engine burns required as part of the expedited rendezvous procedure used since last year, however, and docking with the ISS was delayed until yesterday. The mission reverted to the flight plan used on Soyuz flights to the ISS previously: a longer, two-day, 34-orbit rendezvous.

The precise cause of the malfunction has not yet been publicly announced, but NASA said Wednesday, all systems aboard the Soyuz appeared to be functioning normally despite the setback which prevented a docking approximately six hours after launch. Also according to NASA, engineers understand the issue and have developed methods to prevent a recurrence on a future flight and the crew was never in any danger.

Soyuz TMA-12M successfully docked with the station 252 miles (406 km) above Brazil at 2353 UTC yesterday, with hatch opening between the two spacecraft occurring at 0235 UTC today.

On board the Soyuz were two Russian cosmonauts: Commander Aleksandr Skvortsov and Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev, as well as one NASA astronaut: Flight Engineer Steven Swanson. TMA-12M is a return to space for both Skvortsov and Swanson, who are making the trip for the second and third times, respectively. Artemyev is visiting space for the first time.

Filling out the full six person contingent on the station, they join three Expedition 39 crew members aboard the ISS: Japanese astronaut and station commander Koichi Wakata, NASA astronaut Richard Mastracchio and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin. They launched aboard Soyuz TMA-11M in November of last year and were the sole inhabitants of the station since the departure of Soyuz TMA-10M on March 11.

Skvortsov, Artemyev and Swanson are to become the crew of Expedition 40 when TMA-11M is scheduled to depart in May with Wakata, Mastracchio and Tyurin aboard, at which time Swanson is to assume command of the station. The trio are slated to remain aboard the orbital outpost for approximately six months, until TMA-12M undocks in mid-September and returns to Earth.


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