Saturday, June 04, 2011
The next crew members bound for the International Space Station are in their final hours before launch to begin nearly six busy months of living and working in earth orbit.
Two space station veterans and a first time space flier will link up with the orbiting complex 222 miles above earth to begin a marathon mission.
Russia's Soyuz commander Sergei Volkov, along with NASA astronaut Mike Fossum and Japan's Satoshi Furukawaare are due to lift-off aboard a Soyuz FG rocket on Tuesday at 4:12:45 p.m. EDT (2012 GMT) from launch pad 1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in western Kazakhstan.
Launch will occur from the very same launch pad which sent Yuri Gagarin aloft on mankind's first voyage into space fifty years earlier.
The boyish looking Volkov was born in 1973, and has logged nearly 200 days in space in 2008 as he flew his first spaceflight as commander of the 17th space station crew. He will perform his third spacewalk seven weeks after launching to the outpost.
His father is cosmonaut Alexander Volkov who spent 391 days in space on three spaceflights, including being aboard the Mir space station the months leading up to and after the fall of the Soviet Union.
The younger Volkov states that it was not his dream of being a cosmonaut as a child, as he sat and watched his father study all the time for exams associated with his flights and training.
"When I was a kid it was more minuses than pluses (to being a cosmonaut). Always busy, studying all day long, exams," Volkov explained.
He did want to become a pilot since an early age graduating from Tambov Air Force Pilot School in 1995, and that led him to cosmonaut training two years later.
Two time shuttle flier Mike Fossum has logged nearly 27 days in space, and has made six spacewalks outside the space station. He will perform his seventh orbital walk one month into his stay aboard the complex.
Japanese astronaut Furukawaare will serve as the Soyuz craft's co-pilot, and will be the only rookie riding into space this week.
A medical doctor from the University of Tokyo, Furukawaare began training to learn the Soyuz spacecraft in 2003 at Star City near Moscow; and the following year moved to Houston to begin Astronaut Candidate Training at the Johnson Space Center.
"My crew’s just awesome," Fossum stated recently as he spoke of his crew mates. "I’ve know Sergey Volkov for 11 years... he’s one of my best friends in the cosmonaut corps. I’ve known and worked with Satoshi since he showed up here to begin training."
"We’re three guys from three different countries and three different corners of the globe, but we get along great. We have a lot of fun working together," Fossum added.
Powered by a central core engine and four booster engines, the Soyuz FG will launch to the east, inclined 51.6 degrees to the earth's equator.
The space trio will ride inside their Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft, a new version of the older Soyuz crafts in which Russia will consider this flight a test flight.
Two days later, the Soyuz will slowly glide in and dock to the Russian Rassvet Module at about 5:00 p.m.
The new crew will join the three existing residents of station commander Andrey Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyaev and NASA astronaut Ron Garan two hours after arriving.
It will be the start of a busy second half of 2011 aboard the orbiting complex.
On June 23, a Russian resupply craft Progress M-11M is due to arrive and dock to the Zvezda service module, loaded with over two tons of fuel, water, fresh food and items for the crew of six.
NASA will launch the final space shuttle to the space station on July 8 to deliver supplies and help with stowage of new equipment brought up by Atlantis.
Fossum and Garan will perform a single six hour spacewalk on July 12 beginning at 8:00 a.m. during Atlantis' eight day stay.
The pair will remove a 1,400 pond failed ammonia pump module tank for storage inside the back section of the shuttle's payload bay.
NASA wants to learn why the pump failed very early in it's life for possible redesign.
"We’re going to the pump module right now is sitting on a stowage platform very close to the space station’s airlock, and Ron’s going to be getting onto the space station’s robot arm and we’re going to get this pump module ready to go," Fossum said of his single spacewalk's start.
Garin will ride the station's arm while holding on to the tank, while Fossum traverses over to a storage platform in Atlantis' bay.
Once latched down, the spacewalkers will switch places to begin the next task.
"I’ll jump on the arm, Ronnie will take the pedestrian route and then we’re going to pick up the RRM (Robotics Refueling Mission)," Fossum explained. "It’s a new kind of science payload that the shuttle’s bringing up, and we’ll put that onto a temporary stowage location on the station for a later install out at its permanent location."
The Goddard Space Flight Center's RRM will demonstrate the refueling of a spacecraft with a robot, likely DEXTRE. It will use fluids and not actual fuel for this experiment.
Two weeks later, Russian cosmonauts Borisenko and Volkov will venture outside to relocate a cargo platform from a Russian docking compartment to the Poisk module; and will they will deploy a mini transmitter containing messages of congratulations related to the golden anniversary of human kinds first voyage into space.
The docking compartment known as Pirs will be unlatched from the station and sent to a destructive reentry in Autumn of 2012.
The space duo will also install several experiments on Pirs to study how biological materials react to being exposed to space, and install a laser-based communications device to the Russian Zvezda module.
Russia's twenty-ninth space station-based spacewalk is planned for July 26.
Two more resupply Progress crafts are scheduled to arrive at the station on September 1 and October 28, stepping up from their traditional launch of every three months to two months following the July retirement of the space shuttle.
Borisenko, Samokutyaev and Garan will depart their home in space for their return to earth aboard their Soyuz TMA-21 craft on September 16. The trio left earth on April 5, arriving in time for the Gagarin anniversary one week later.
On the day prior to Soyuz undocking, Fossum will become the new space station commander. As the spacecraft undocks, Fossum will then become the commander of the new Expedition 29 crew.
Two weeks later, a new crew of three will replace the departed crew as they lift-off to earth's orbital outpost on Sept. 30 to begin their nearly six month stay.
Volkov, Fossum and Furukawaare will conclude their expedition aboard the space station on November 16 and land three hours later in a cold central Kazakhstan desert.