Space station crew's ride rolls to launch pad
BY SPACEFLIGHT NOW
Posted: October 5, 2010
The Soyuz booster featuring the maiden flight of Russia's upgraded crew capsule with digital enhancements was transported by rail from the final assembly building to the launch pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome today.
Liftoff of the Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka is scheduled for Thursday at 7:10 p.m. EDT (2310 GMT).
A two-day transit to the International Space Station is planned, leading to rendezvous and docking Saturday at 8:02 p.m. EDT. The three-man crew will join the trio already leaving aboard the complex as Expedition 25.
The Soyuz modernization effort includes modified guidance, navigation and control components, a new data processing unit and better cooling to the avionics. The changes reduce weight and power consumption.
"The improvements are rather significant. The displays that the cosmonauts ... use to control the vehicle have been upgraded to make flying it easier. It's less operator intensive," Kelly said.
"The new crew interfaces, like displays, like some information on displays, like some lights, some switches and, so it's an interesting version and I think that the improvement of Soyuz will get us new possibilities to improve it more and more," Kaleri added.
This initial mission is considered a developmental test flight for the spacecraft. Kelly says demonstrating the changes will last all the way through touchdown next March.
"The main and most important change is they have a new, what we would refer to as a flight control computer. So the computer that operates the systems on board is new and the software is new. Now the software is written in a way to kind of model the previous algorithms that control the vehicle. But it is new software and it is new hardware, most of which has been tested on the Progress, Russian resupply vehicles, but the Progress doesn't re-enter the same way as the Soyuz does. So when we come home in March, it'll be the first time that this new flight control computer and the entry software will be demonstrated in flight."
Asked if it was exciting for the Navy test pilot to fly the upgraded craft for the first time, Kelly replied: "Well, I would prefer it not to be exciting, and everything go just as they expect, and I'm sure it will."
Photo credit: Energia