Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Space Station Crew Liftsoff on Soyuz Rocket

Under blue skies, a Russian Soyuz rocket lifted-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today with a truly international crew of three on a two day flight to the international space station.

Russian Roman Romanenko, European Frank De Winne and Canadian Robert Thirsk lifted-off from their launch pad in southeastern Russia this morning at 6:34 am EDT or 4:34 pm local time, to begin a trip which will double the current station crew size to six.

Launch came as the space station flew 220 miles high over the southern Pacific Ocean as it approached an orbital sunrise.

It was a beautiful launch phase as the white Soyuz rocket streaked high into the blue skies. Ten minutes later, the Soyuz dropped its third stage as the crew arrived safely into an orbit of 143 x 182 miles.

On Friday morning, the Soyuz will approach the space station and slowly dock at 8:36 am EDT.

Once aboard, the entire crew of six will become the Expedition 20 crew, and will be commanded by the current 19 commander Russian Gennady Padalka. Current 19 residents American Michael Barratt and Japan's Koichi Wakata will round out the new 20 crew.

Wakata will leave the space station when shuttle Endeavour arrives and delivers new expedition 20 flight engineer
Timothy Kopra in mid-June.

June will be busy and crowded aboard the earth's outpost in space. On June 5th, Padalka and Barratt will perform a five hour spacewalk to install new equipment on the station. On June 15th, Endeavour will dock to station for about 10 days, bringing the station population to 13 - the most ever aboard station at one time.

Endeavour on mission STS-127 will deliver the final segment, an experiment tray, to be attached to the Japanese Kibo scientific module.

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