A Russian cosmonaut and his NASA co-driver who quit five months after a dramatic crash in October last year made it into orbit. With a NASA astronaut making their first flight, he docked at the International Space Station hours later to increase the crew's labor force to six.
The spacecraft Soyuz MS-12 / 58S climbed at 3:14:08 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan ET Friday, about the same moment Earth's rotation hit the launch pad – the same Yuri Gagarin used at the beginning of the space age – transported to the level of the orbit of the station.
Soyuz MS – a fast rendezvous procedure. 1
After waiting for the rest of the movement to be dampened, the hooks and bolts snap in to feed the ferry for a so-called "hard partner" with the docking port. It was expected that the hatches would be opened about two hours later, after tests to verify an airtight seal and equalize the pressure between the two spacecraft probes.
Station commander Oleg Kononenko, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques and NASA engineer Anne McClain awaited the arrival of the new crew. They were launched outside the outpost on December 3, and had been on their own since December 19, when an earlier Soyuz crew returned to Earth.
The Soyuz Demolition Systemwas automatically activated, speeding the crew's capsule safely away from the failing rocket. Ovchinin and The Hague landed about 250 miles from the launch site. The problem with the usually reliable Soyuz booster was quickly resolved and the way for Kononenko, Saint-Jacques and McClain on December 3 acquitted. However, down flights had to be rescheduled.
Originally launched on Thursday, the Soyuz probe MS-12 / 58S was originally scheduled to launch in April with commander Oleg Skripochka, a visiting cosmonaut of the United Arab Emirates, and Koch, who was training as a flight engineer or co-pilot , In the course of the demolition, however, the flight was postponed and Ovchinin and Hague were commissioned to take over co-pilot role with Koch together with Hague.
In an interview before the cook's start, electrical engineer, climber and antarctic researcher veteran said she has no qualms about strapping herself into a Soyuz spacecraft and flying into space.
"It's an incredible machine," she said. "The fact that the reliability is so high is a very high regard, and it was a great privilege to be able to train on a spaceship that has such a great record, it was an honor, it's a good spacecraft."
The extended six-man crew is facing an unusually busy first week, along with three spacewalks scheduled later this month to install new solar array batteries and carry out further upgrades and maintenance. Hague and McClain will perform the first battery replacement excursion on March 22. McClain and Koch are expected to follow seven days later. Hague and Saint-Jacques will conduct the third EVA on April 8th.
Cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya was the first woman to walk in space in 1984. Eleven American women followed in their footsteps, starting with astronaut Kathryn Sullivan during a shuttle flight in October 1984. McClain and Koch would be the thirteenth and fourteenth to float outside a spaceship and the first all-female female team.
NASA originally planned to install the new solar array batteries during two spacewalks last fall, but the launch of the Japanese HTV-7 cargo ship, which put them into orbit, was delayed and the EVAs were postponed after the expected arrival of Hague last October. After the start aborted, the battery installation was delayed again.
Along with the spacewalks, the station crew will conduct a series of scientific research and routine maintenance and unload five unpiloted cargo ships – two Russian Progress Freighters, two SpaceX Dragon Supply Vessels, and a Northrup Grumman Cygnus cargo pod.
Kononenko, Saint-Jacques and McClain are expected to return to Earth June 25 to complete a 203-day mission. Ovchinin, The Hague and Koch will hold the station until July 6 when three new crew members arrive: Soyuz MS-13 / 59S commander Alexander Skvortsov, NASA astronaut Drew Morgan and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano.
This flight was the last Russian mission that had carried American astronauts as NASA switched to commercial SpaceX and Boeing crew ships. SpaceX launched a Crew Dragon spacecraft on an unpaired test flight on March 2 and may be ready to launch the first astronauts in the midsummer timeframe.
Hague and Koch have trained for Crew Dragon and Starliner dockings, milestones, "says Hague Big Deal" for NASA, giving the US Space Agency its sole reliance on the Russian Soyuz for transport to and from the US Space Station can finish.
NASA, however, secures their bets. The agency is in the process of acquiring two additional Soyuz seats, one for the fall and next spring, to ensure that American astronauts can reach the station when the commercial occupation program is long delayed.
However, Ovchinin, Hague and Koch are expected to return to Earth on October 3 to complete a 204-day mission.