Soyuz launch will boost space station crew size to six
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: May 26, 2009
In a long-awaited milestone for the International Space Station, a Russian Soyuz rocket scheduled for launch early Wednesday will ferry three fresh crew members to the lab complex, boosting its crew size to six for the first time.
Soyuz commander Roman Romanenko, son of a Russian cosmonaut, will be strapped into the center seat, flanked by European Space Agency astronaut Frank De Winne of Belgium and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk, a shuttle veteran.
"I can't think of three finer gentlemen to help us realize our dream of six permanent crew on orbit," Mike Suffredini, NASA's space station program manager, told the Soyuz crew Tuesday. "So I wish you good luck and Godspeed."
Assuming an on-time liftoff, Romanenko plans to oversee an automated approach and docking to an Earth-facing port on the front end of the space station's Russian Zarya module at 8:36 a.m. Friday. Waiting to welcome their new crewmates aboard will be Expedition 20 commander Gennady Padalka, NASA flight engineer Michael Barratt and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.
Padalka and Barratt were launched to the station March 26 aboard the Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft. Wakata was launched aboard the shuttle Discovery on March 15, becoming Japan's first full-time station crew member.
With the arrival of Romanenko, De Winne and Thirsk, all five of the space agencies building the International Space Station will be represented by full-time crew members for the first time.
"Six person crew is a milestone in the history of the International Space Station," Thirsk said before launch. "In a big way, the International Space Station will be able to fulfill it's primary purpose, which is to function as a world-class orbiting laboratory for medical science and materials science.
"But there are also practical issues to consider as well with a crew of six and one of our goals, with our three colleagues on orbit, is to prove that the station can support six people for a long duration."
NASA television's public and media channels will carry pre-launch video footage from Baikonur starting at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday, followed by launch coverage beginning at 5:45 a.m. Assuming an on-time liftoff at 6:34:49 a.m., the Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft should be in orbit by 6:44 a.m. NASA plans to feed a launch day b-roll package at 12 p.m.
Here is a generic Soyuz countdown timeline to give readers a sense of when major events are planned (in EDT; best viewed with fixed-width font; some times may be different for the TMA-15 launch):
EDT...........EVENT Wednesday, May 27 12:34 AM......Batteries installed in booster 01:04 AM......State commission 'go' 01:34 AM......Tanking begins 02:34 AM......Booster is loaded with liquid oxygen 03:34 AM......1st/2nd stage oxygen fueling complete 03:59 AM......Crew arrives at launch vehicle 04:04 AM......Crew ingress through orbital module side hatch 04:34 AM......Crew in re-entry vehicle 04:49 AM......Re-entry vehicle hardware tested; suits are ventilated 05:04 AM......Hatch sealed and tested 05:34 AM......Launch vehicle control system preps; gyro activation 05:49 AM......Launch pad service structure halves lowered 05:54 AM......Suit leak checks; re-entry vehicle testing complete 06:04 AM......Emergency escape system armed 06:09 AM......Service towers retracted 06:19 AM......Suit leak checks complete; escape system to auto 06:24 AM......Gyros uncaged; on-board recorders activated 06:27 AM......Prelaunch operations complete 06:28 AM......Final launch countdown operations to auto 06:28 AM......Launch complex and vehicle systems ready 06:29 AM......CDR's controls activated; helmets closed; launch key inserted 06:31 AM......Combustion chamber nitrogen purge 06:32:19 AM...Booster propellant tank pressurization begins 06:32:34 AM...Ground propellant feed terminated 06:33:49 AM...Vehicle to internal; 1st umbilical tower sep; auto sequence start 06:34:09 AM...Ground power umbilical to 3rd stage separates 06:34:29 AM...Launch command given; central/side pod engines on 06:34:34 AM...Second umbilical tower separates 06:34:39 AM...Engine turbopumps at flight speed 06:34:44 AM...Engines at maximum thrust 06:34:49 AM...LIFTOFF 06:35:59 AM...Velocity 1,118 mph 06:36:47 AM...Stage 1 strap-on boosters separate 06:36:49 AM...Velocity 3,355 mph 06:37:29 AM...Escape tower/launch shroud jettison 06:39:47 AM...Core booster separates at 105 statute miles 06:42:19 AM...Velocity 13,421 mph 06:43:49 AM...Third stage shutdown; Soyuz separation