Soyuz flight heralds intensive ISS schedule

Soyuz launchNASA astronaut Kevin Ford and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Evgeny Tarelkin blasted off from Baikonur at 11.51 UTC Tuesday on a mission that heralds a rapid sequence of events at the International Space Station.

The flight began from a pad called Site 31 which was first used on 14 January 1961 and last saw a manned launch 28 years ago during the Soviet era. It is frequently used for commercial Soyuz-FG/Fregat and Soyuz 2 flights. The usual pad, used to send Yuri Gagarin into orbit on 12 April 1961 and known as Site 1 or Gagarin Start, the one usually used for Soyuz flights to the ISS, is up for renovation.

The crew of expedition 33/34 will join ISS commander Sunita Williams and her colleagues Akihhiko Hoshide and Yuri Malenchenko after docking on Thursday 25 October. Just three days later, on 28 October the Dragon capsule will separate and return to Earth, Three days after that, on 31 October a Progress cargo/tanker will lift off from Baikonur and dock with the station at an elapsed time of around six hours using a fast four-orbit rendezvous. The following day, on 1 November Williams and Hoshide are scheduled to conduct a space walk to fix an ammonia leak in the ISS cooling system.

The existing Expedition 33 crew of Williams, Hoshide and Malenchenko will hand over to the new crew to formally start Expedition 34 before returning to Earth on 19 November.

The Editor (Spaceflight)

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