Soyuz re-positioned in preparation for close of Expedition 37
Video courtesy of NASA
Some of the current residents on board the International Space Station took one of their rocket-powered roadsters for a spin. The Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft was undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) at approximately 4:33 a.m. EDT on Friday November 1. It traveled around the ISS before redocking at the station’s rear.
The Soyuz spacecraft was moved in preparation for the closing days of Expedition 37. The station’s commander, Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, along with flight engineers Karen Nyberg and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmintano moved the spacecraft from the Russian Rassvet module on the Earth-facing side of the station. The three remaining crew members, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryazanskiy and Oleg Kotov remained aboard the ISS.
The trio on the Soyuz then traveled what a NASA statement referred to as a “safe distance” away before Yurchikin maneuvered the spacecraft around the orbiting laboratory. He eventually had positioned Soyuz at the rear of the ISS. Once there, he docked the spacecraft to the Zvezda service module at 4:54 a.m. EDT.
This was far from Yurchikhin’s first rodeo, not only did he conduct a similar re-positioning of a different Soyuz in June of 2010 during Expedition 24. He also traveled to the International Space Station twice before on Soyuz and once on STS-112, which was conducted on space shuttle Atlantis in 2002. In short? Yurchikhin is a space flight veteran with four trips to orbit under his belt.
Up until this past Monday, Soyuz TMA-09M’s position was the spot ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle 4, The Albert Einstein, was located at. The Albert Einstein undocked on Monday from the ISS and conducted a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Friday’s move was not just conducted to keep the commander’s skills sharp however. The move left Rassvet’s docking module poised to accept the Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft which will deliver NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin to the ISS. Launch and docking is slated to occur on November 7.
Like the crew of space travelers currently on station, they will fly to the ISS via an expedited method which will see the Expedition 38/39 crew arrive at the station around six hours after launch. It will also be the first time since 2009 that the station has played host to nine crew members at a single time since the end of the space shuttle program (the final shuttle mission, STS-135, wrapped up the shuttle era in the summer of 2011).
When the Soyuz TMA-11M launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, it will mark more than just the arrival of a new crew, the Olympic Torch, stealing some of Soyuz’s flame will travel to the ISS. If all goes according to plan? Two Russian flight engineers will take the torch out on a symbolic spacewalk. The Torch will again see fire, this time the scorching flames of reentry – before it enters the relay which heralds the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russian. Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmintano will bring back the torch back with them on November 10.
After the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft undocks, the Zvezda module will be freed up to accept a Progress unmanned cargo spacecraft later in November. Engineers like to keep either a Soyuz or Progress docked to the Zvezda module so as to boost the space station’s orbit.
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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.