Station's next resident crew launches into orbit
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: April 8, 2008
A Soyuz rocket carrying South Korea's first astronaut and two cosmonauts bound for the international space station blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today and rocketed smoothly into orbit.
With incoming Expedition 17 commander Sergei Volkov and flight engineer Oleg Kononenko at the controls of the three-seat Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft, the rocket roared to life at 7:16:39 a.m. EDT and swiftly climbed away from the same pad used by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, on April 12, 1961.
Nine minutes later, boosted to a velocity of five miles per second, the Soyuz capsule separated from the rocket's third stage as planned. The craft's solar arrays deployed a few moments later.
"Congratulations to the entire crew. Sergei, all the best to you and congratulations," radioed Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian space agency, Roskosmos.
"Thank you very much, Anatoly," Volkov replied."
"Have a good flight."
Launch was timed for the moment Earth's rotation carried the pad into the plane of the space station's orbit. It will take Volkov and company two days to catch up with the lab complex for a docking at the Pirs airlock module around 9:02 a.m. Thursday.
Joining Volkov and Kononenko inside the cramped capsule was So-Yeon Yi, a 29-year-old South Korean engineer flying under a commercial agreement between the Russian space agency and South Korea's ministry of science and technology. She initially was selected as a backup to San Ko, a robotics engineer, but Ko was removed from the prime crew after reportedly violating Russian training procedures.
In video downlinked from the capsule today during the climb to space, Yi, seated to Volkov's right, could be seen enthusiastically waving a thumbs up at the camera and smiling broadly.
"We are fine on board and feeling fine," Volkov reported.
Yi will spend nine days aboard the space station and return to Earth on April 19 with outgoing Expedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson and flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko, who will command the Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft that carried the two into orbit Oct. 10.
The third member of the Expedition 16 crew, NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman, will remain aboard the lab complex with Volkov and Kononenko and become a member of Expedition 17. Launched to the station aboard the shuttle Endeavour last month, Reisman will be replaced in early June by astronaut Gregory Chamitoff, scheduled for launch May 31 aboard the shuttle Discovery.
Volkov, 35, is the son of cosmonaut Alexander Volkov and is the first second-generation cosmonaut or astronaut to fly in space.
"I never thought about it, really, that I am going to be the second generation," he said in a NASA interview. "I just want to do my job as best as is possible and that's it, honestly. I think it's a logical sequence of events because we (have been) continuously flying almost 50 years. I think it's time to expect that the kids whose father or mother were cosmonauts, want to be as their parents. And it's normal.
"Usually in our countries we have kids who decided to be an actor because their parents were actors, or they want to a politician because their parents were a politician. I think it's like a normal sequence of events that we might have more and more kids from the parents who been involved in space program."
Volkov grew up in the Russian space program and his decision to pursue a career as a cosmonaut was a natural transition. For Kononenko, 43, "it seems to me that I was born thinking that I must become a cosmonaut."
"I don't remember anything specific in terms of a event, a one-time event, that would inspire me," he said. "I was born after the first Sputnik flight, after Gagarin's flight. But as far back as I remember myself I always wanted to become a cosmonaut. After I graduated from high school I made a conscious decision to go to the aviation institute and I wanted to become a cosmonaut. Maybe for a human it's not so very good to have just one goal in life, but so it is with me."
Whitson and Malenchenko will brief their replacements on the intricacies of space station operations before departing April 19 with Yi.
"As a rule, every crew that arrives to the station kind of adapts the station throughout those six months that they're living there, so they locate whatever items that they're using in such a way that is most convenient to them and they, of course, report that to the ground," Kononenko said in a NASA interview.
"However, it is not really possible to model an entire volume of the stack of the Russian or U.S. side, so we have this handover operation. The crew that's about to leave tells us about the current status of the station and they tell us how they are doing all the routine operations that we are going to continue with. This is done to make our life easier during our first days and weeks of our stay on the station. They show us the locations and configurations of the hardware that we are about to use and this time is somewhat more complicated because of the fact that we are going to have a Space Flight Participant from South Korea and we are going to help (with her) experiments."
Perminov, speaking on a Russian television feed a few minutes after launch, said the crew was relatively inexperienced going into a complex mission.
"It's their first flight," he said through an interpreter. "They're young in age and young in experience and they don't have the wealth of experience, unfortunately, that other, more experienced crew members have. But after they have gone through the flight, once they have spent six months on board the station, this is going to be a different crew and they're going to be more experienced."
Volkov, Kononenko and Reisman will have about six weeks to prepare for the arrival of the shuttle Discovery and the new Japanese Kibo research laboratory, a huge module that will be attached to the left side of the forward Harmony connecting module. Along with helping activate the new lab, the Expedition 17 crew will oversee the arrival of three Progress supply ships and the departure of the European Space Agency's Jules Verne automated transfer vehicle later this summer. Volkov and Kononenko also plan at least one spacewalk, in July,
Here is a rendezvous timeline (in EDT and mission elapsed time; dV means change in velocity):
DATE/EDT...DD...HH...MM...EVENT 04/08/08 10:53 AM...00...03...36...DV1 rocket firing (dV: 59.4 mph) 11:38 AM...00...04...21...DV2 rocket firing (dV: 29.9 mph) 04/09/08 08:29 AM...01...01...12...DV3 rocket firing (dV: 4.5 mph) 04/10/08 05:25 AM...01...22...08...US-to-Russian motion control system handover 06:41 AM...01...23...24...AR&D automated rendezvous start 06:56 AM...01...23...39...Station maneuvers to docking attitude 07:04 AM...01...23...47...AR&D DV4 impulse 1 (dV: 20.9 mph) 07:24 AM...02...00...07...AR&D impulse 2 (dV: 2.2 mph) 07:27 AM...02...00...10...Soyuz/KURS-A activation 07:29 AM...02...00...12...Zvezda/KURS-P activation 07:47 AM...02...00...30...AR&D DV5 impulse 3 (dV: 27.1 mph) 07:52 AM...02...00...35...Good KURS-P data at 50 miles 08:10 AM...02...00...53...Sunrise 08:13 AM...02...00...56...KURS short test at 9.3 miles 08:19 AM...02...01...02...Range: 5.6 miles 08:20 AM...02...01...03...Range: 5 miles; Soyuz TV activation 08:29 AM...02...01...12...AR&D impulse 4 (dV: 16 mph) 08:31 AM...02...01...14...AR&D ballistic targeting point 08:34 AM...02...01...17...AR&D impulse 5 (dV: 6.7 mph) 08:36 AM...02...01...19...AR&D impulse 6 (dV: 3.7 mph) 08:38 AM...02...01...21...AR&D fly around mode start 08:47 AM...02...01...30...AR&D stationkeeping start 08:50 AM...02...01...33...Russian ground station AOS 08:53 AM...02...01...36...AR&D final approach start 09:02 AM...02...01...45...ISS Docking 09:05 AM...02...01...48...Sunset 09:06 AM...02...01...49...Russian ground station loss of signal 09:22 AM...02...02...05...Soyuz hooks closed; ISS returns to normal orientation 10:05 AM...02...02...48...US motion control system resumes attitude control