Soyuz MS-09 rolled to Baikonur launch pad for Wednesday flight
BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan — A Russian Soyuz-FG rocket with the encapsulated Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft sits at Pad 1/5 and is set to launch three new crew members bound for the International Space Station to join Expedition 56.
Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, NASA astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst are slated to launch into space at 7:12 a.m. EDT (11:12 GMT) June 6, 2018. They are expected to rendezvous and dock with the ISS two days later to join the in-progress Expedition 56. The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft is slated to be the 138th flight of any Soyuz since it debuted in 1967. Its call sign is Altai, after the mountain range in eastern Kazakhstan.
The booster that will send the trio into orbit was rolled from its hangar via rail to the launch site, Gagarin’s Start, which was named after Yuri Gagarin who from that location became the first human to fly into space in April 1961.
Once at the pad, the 162-foot (49.5-meter) tall Soyuz-FG was lifted from horizontal to vertical via hydraulic lifts. Then, several towers around the pad were moved into place so technicians could access the various parts of the vehicle to continue preparing it for launch.
Prokopyev, 43, will serve as the commander for Soyuz MS-09. Selected to be a cosmonaut in 2010, this will be his first flight into space. Before that, he served as a commander in the Russian Air Force.
Riding into space on his second mission, 42-year-old Gerst will serve as a flight engineer for Expedition 56/57. The German astronaut’s first flight was in 2014 as part of the Expedition 40/41 increment. During his first stay at the ISS, he performed a single spacewalk with NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman to replace a failed cooling pump.
Selected to be a NASA astronaut in 2009, this will be Aunon-Chancellor’s first spaceflight. The 42-year-old previously worked as a NASA flight surgeon, serving as the deputy crew surgeon for STS-127 and Expedition 22 in 2009.
Once Soyuz MS-09 with the trio completes its 8.5-minute ride into orbit, it is expected to rendezvous and dock with the space station’s Rassvet module some 34-orbits later at about 9:07 a.m. EDT (13:07 GMT) June 8. They will join the already-aboard Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos, and Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold of NASA. Feustel is serving as commander for Expedition 56.
Their upcoming launch and arrival comes less than a week after another trio left the outpost in Soyuz MS-07. Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Norishige Kanai landed on the Kazakh Steppe several hundred miles northeast of Baikonur. They spent 168 days in orbit.
Prokopyev, Aunon-Chancellor and Gerst are expected to remain aboard the ISS until December 2018.
Baikonur Cosmodrome is the world’s first spaceport and has been active since 1955. Photo Credit: Sean Costello / SpaceFlight Insider
Video courtesy of SpaceFlight Insider
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.