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Soyuz-TMA-19M Launch

Fri Dec 18, 2015 6:55 am

Hi folks,

To those who might interested - photo story of ISS next mission launch from Baikonur from my friend and colleague Leonid Faerberg at Aviation Week:

"Cooperation despite politics" - just how true is it!


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RE: Soyuz-TMA-19M Launch

Mon Dec 21, 2015 10:37 am

Interesting how they had to do a manual docking at the ISS, I wonder how often that is required?

Due to Tim Peake's presence on the mission, the BBC covered it quite comprehensively, complete with a reporter present at Baikonur and a live edition of Stargazing (BBC astronomy show):
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RE: Soyuz-TMA-19M Launch

Fri Jan 01, 2016 8:44 pm

The news about the launch of the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft, that FYODOR brought us here, was sufficiently intriguing and interesting for me to look for some more data and information, about the whole event, in some sources I consider competent and reliable. In one moment I have realized I have something, maybe good enough, that I would like to share with those who are interested in such a things and would like to learn something more about space flights and related technology.

I believe that most of You will, quite understandably, give up already in the early stage of the journey through this post, but if only one of You will have the will to travel through it completely, I will have no choice but to conclude that my work paid off…

---------------------------------------------------------------------- PART 1 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

I suggest that we begin with some basic issues and questions like:

What are the parts of the Soyuz TMA rocket? What are the stages into orbit? What is the launch sequence? …This video has been produced from an actual lesson delivered to the ESA astronaut class of 2009, during their ESA Basic Training in 2009-2010, and it is a joint production of the ESA Human Spaceflight & Operation Astronaut Training Division & Promotion Office….

* Part 1: The Soyuz launch sequence explained *

This second video in the ‘Journey to the International Space Station’ series follows the Soyuz capsule from the Earth´s orbit to docking with the International Space Station. Featuring interviews with ESA astronauts Luca Parmitano, Frank De Winne and Paolo Nespoli and an introduction by Alexander Gerst, it includes unique footage taken from inside the Soyuz spacecraft. It was produced by the ESA Human Spaceflight and Operations Astronaut Training Division in Cologne, Germany, in collaboration with the Human Spaceflight and Operations Strategic Planning and Outreach Office in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

* Part 2: Soyuz rendezvous and docking explained *

How does an astronaut return to the Earth from the International Space Station? What does it feel like to re-enter the atmosphere? How does the Soyuz capsule function? Watch and find out. This video is based on an actual lesson delivered to the ESA astronaut class of 2009 during their ESA Basic Training. It features interviews with astronauts who have flown on the Soyuz and dramatic footage of actual landings.
Produced by the ESA Human Spaceflight and Operations (HSO) Astronaut Training Division, Cologne, Germany, in collaboration with the HSO Strategic Planning and Outreach Office, Noordwijk, The Netherlands, with special support from Roskosmos.

* Part 3: Soyuz undocking, reentry and landing explained *

---------------------------------------------------------------------- PART 2 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

* Soyuz TMA-M Spacecraft *

The Soyuz TMA-M spacecraft is the latest version in the series of Russian Soyuz spacecrafts that are currently used to transport crew to and from the International Space Station, using a new computer, digital interior displays, updated docking equipment, while the vehicle's total mass has been reduced by 70 kg. This new version debuted on 7. Oct 2010, with the launch of TMA-01M, carrying the ISS Expedition 25 crew aboard the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle from Site 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

Soyuz spacecrafts have been used for the crew transport to and from the Salyut and Mir Space Stations. Now, Soyuz vehicles are dedicated to ISS crew transport. Soyuz is manufactured by OAO S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, also known as RSC Energia. It is used by the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, for human spaceflights. The spacecraft features several changes to accommodate requirements requested by NASA in order to service the International Space Station, including more latitude in the height and weight of the crew and the improved parachute systems. It is also the first expendable vehicle to feature a "glass cockpit".



- Orbital Module -

The Orbital Module is located on top of the two other sections of the Soyuz. It is 2,98 m long and 2,26 m in diameter. It has a total mass of 1.300 kg and offers a habitable volume of 5 m³. During ascent, the Orbital Module is sealed from the Descent Module by closing and latching the inner hatch. Once in the orbit, the crew opens the hatch and can use the BO, as the Orbital Module is also known, as habitable module. It is used to carry cargo and equipment to space and houses equipment required to allow the crew to live in space.


BO contains a toilet and a communication equipment. On the top side of the section is the docking assembly of the spacecraft that features the navigation antenna systems and the actual docking port with docking probe and associated lights and sensors. The docking interface features the KURS hardware that is used for the automatic rendezvous procedure. Also, the docking interface includes electrical and communications systems connectors for power transfer from ISS and communication relay.

A side hatch on the module allows crews to enter the capsule at the launch pad and during preflight operations. The Life Support System can support the crew for 30 days, providing Oxygen generation and Carbon Dioxide scrubbing capabilities. Also, the atmosphere aboard the Soyuz can be topped up with Nitrogen from storage tanks to keep the capsule pressurized.


- Descent (Entry) Module -

The Descent Module is located between the two other sections and is 2,24 m long and 2,17 m in diameter. It has a total mass of 2.950 kg and offers 3,5 m³ of habitable volume. The Descent Module houses vehicle control systems and crew seats. The crew is isolated in the Entry (Descent) Module for launch and landing.

Three custom made Kazbek seat liners are installed inside the module that are specially made for each individual crew member. A shock absorbing system is installed on the crew’s seats to dampen the impact the Soyuz experiences during landing.


The KS0 20M computer aboard the Entry Module is the primary flight computer after module separation taking the descent section of the vehicle through the re-entry and landing portion of the flight. It is also the prime computer for launch and ascent aborts. The Entry Module has an attitude control system consisting of 24 Hydrogen Peroxide thrusters for making maneuvers in orbit and during entry.

Also, it is outfitted with the spacecraft’s fully redundant parachute system consisting of a Pilot Chute that is deployed first after computers issue the parachute opening command during entry. The Pilot Chute is followed by a Drogue Chute (16 m²) and the Main Chute (518 m²) to slow the vehicle down to a safe landing speed. In the final moments before landing, the Entry Module separates from its heat shield that is used to protect the vehicle during the re-entry process. This exposes the six solid-fueled soft landing engines that are fired just a split second before landing to slow the vehicle down to its final landing speed. A fast-opening parachute system is also installed on the module to support launch aborts.

100 kg of cargo can be loaded into the Descent Module for transport back to Earth. The Descent Module of the Soyuz can also be used as an airlock when the hatch to the Orbital Module is closed. Spacewalkers would exit and ingress through the side hatch.


- Instrumentation / Propulsion Module -

The Instrumentation or Service Module is located underneath the other two modules and houses equipment necessary to support the vehicle during its mission. It has a liftoff mass of 2.900 kg, it is 2,26 m in length and 2,72 m in diameter.

A pressurized container includes systems for thermal control, electric power supply, communications, telemetry and navigation. The unpressurized portion of the Instrumentation Modules contains the main engine and the liquid-fueled propulsion system. The propulsion system is used for attitude control maneuvers, rendezvous and orbit adjustments as well as the deorbit burn.


SKD, the Soyuz main engine, provides a thrust of 2.942 N. The entire Soyuz Attitude Control System is comprised of 28 DPO thrusters. Two clusters of 14 DPO thruster are mounted on the spacecraft with 12 of these jets providing 26,5 N of thrust and the remaining 16 providing 130 N. The propulsion system uses Nitrogen Tetroxide as oxidizer and Unsymmetrical Dimethylydrazine as fuel. A total of 800 kg of propellants are carried aboard the SM tanks. Tank pressurization is accomplished with high-pressure Helium.

The Service Module also includes the power generation system consisting of two deployable solar arrays and batteries. The instrumentation module is outfitted with the main flight computer that is in charge of all aspects of the Soyuz mission up the point of module separation when the KSO 20M computer of the Entry Module takes over.


- Soyuz Flight Profile -

After being delivered to Low Earth Orbit by the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle, the spacecraft deploys its solar arrays and communication antennas to begin on-orbit operations. After orbital insertion, the spacecraft starts two hours of rendezvous operations to link up with the Space Station, including several main engine burns to raise its orbital altitude and modify its trajectory.

Once reaching the vicinity of the Space Station, the KURS automated docking system takes over. The vehicle makes a fly-around of ISS to align itself with its docking port. Fly-around distance is about 100 m. Once being aligned with the docking port, the Soyuz initiates a period of station-keeping to give mission control a chance to asses alignment and vehicle systems before final approach is initiated.

All aspects of the rendezvous and docking are controlled in automated mode, however the commander of the Soyuz spacecraft is ready to assume manual control and conduct a manual approach and docking should there be any problems during the automated docking sequence. After initial contact and capture, a hard mate between the two docking interfaces is formed and a 1-hour leak check operation kicks off. Hatches are opened and the crew’s and Soyuz’ stay aboard the station begins.

During the docked phase, most of the on-board systems of the spacecraft are deactivated. During the long duration mission, the Soyuz is tested periodically and the crew checks their Kazbek couches and performs regular landing simulations. Soyuz can stay docked to the Station for up to six months, however modifications are under development to increase docked time to one year. When the crew gets ready to depart the station, the Soyuz is activated and the hatches are closed. The leak check operation is repeated while the crew also closes the Entry (Descent) Module hatch and ingresses the Sokol launch and entry suits before getting strapped into their seats.

Undocking is accomplished by opening hooks and latches that were used to form the hard mate between ISS and Soyuz and initiating springs that push the vehicles away from each other. At a distance of 20 m, the Soyuz performs a 15-second separation burn to leave the vicinity of the Station. A period of several hours of free flight follows during which the vehicle retreats to a distance of 12 km behind ISS. At that point, the deorbit burn is conducted by igniting the SKD main engine to slow the vehicle down by about 115 m/s, just enough to place it on a re-entry trajectory.

Minutes from entry interface, the three Soyuz modules are pyrotechnically separated and the Entry Module maneuvers to its re-entry attitude. During the entry process, the vehicle is protected by its ablative heat shield. At an altitude of about 9 km, the Pilot Chute opens and deploys the Drogue Chute that slows the vehicle from 240 m/s to 90 m/s. At an altitude of 7,5 km, the Main Chute is opened and slows the vehicle down to 6 m/s. While flying under the main chute, the Soyuz transitions from a nearly horizontal flight to a vertical descent.

Also, the heat shield is jettisoned and the propellant tanks are vented. Dropping the heat shied exposes the soft landing engines and the landing radar to provide navigation data.

Just a split of second before the landing, the Soyuz ignites its six solid-fueled soft-landing engines to dampen the impact. Landing speed is 3 m/s. Inside the vehicle, the Kazbek seat liners have a built-in shock absorbing system to dampen the impact load. After landing, recovery forces open the Entry Module hatch and extract the crew. Landing occurs in the Kazakh Steppe.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- PART 3 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

* Soyuz-FG Launch Vehicle *

The Soyuz-FG is a medium-lift launch vehicle qualified for manned launches and used to deliver Soyuz spacecraft to orbit for missions to the International Space Station. The vehicle is a member of the Soyuz rocket family that has a history dating back to 1957.

Soyuz launchers have been derived from the R-7 missile that was developed during the Cold War, making 28 launches between 1957 and 1961. There have been various different versions of the Soyuz launcher; currently a number of different configurations are available to serve a variety of purposes.

Soyuz-FG was introduced in 2001 and is based on the Soyuz-U launcher which has been modified to provide performance and safety improvements required for human space flight. Soyuz-FG is manufactured by TsSKB-Progress and operated by RKK Energia and Roscosmos. The vehicle launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Most launches were indeed manned space flights using the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for missions to ISS, but the Soyuz-FG launcher is also available for commercial and government flights to deliver payloads to a variety of orbits by adding a Fregat upper stage to the vehicle.

Soyuz-FG is a three-stage rocket, utilizing a Core Stage which burns through the first and second stage portions of the flight. Stage one is comprised on the Core Stage and four strap-on Boosters. Core Stage, Boosters and Third Stage all use Rocket Propellant 1 and liquid Oxygen as propellants.

To date, Soyuz-FG made over 50 flights, all of which were completed successfully. Other versions of the Soyuz rocket include the Soyuz-U for Progress flights to ISS and government launches and the Soyuz-2 vehicle for commercial flights from both, Baikonur and the Guiana Space Center, French Guiana.

- Soyuz-FG Specifications -

The Soyuz-FG launch vehicle stands 49,5 m tall, with a main diameter of 2,95 m and a maximum diameter of 10,3 m, is an improved version of the Soyuz-U, from the R-7 family of rockets, designed and constructed by TsSKB-Progress in Samara. It made its maiden flight on the 20. May 2001, carrying a Progress M1-6 cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).

All stages of the vehicle use Rocket Propellant 1 (Rocket-Grade Kerosene) and liquid Oxygen as propellants.

Liftoff mass is about 305.000 kg. The FG version of the Soyuz can deliver payloads of up to 7.100 kg to Low Earth Orbit. The vehicle features a Launch Escape System to maintain high safety standards for manned space flight.

Since the 30. Oct 2002, the Soyuz-FG has been the only vehicle used by the Russian Federal Space Agency to launch Soyuz-TMA manned spacecraft to the ISS. All launches have been successful thus far.

Another version of the Soyuz-FG is the Soyuz-FG/Fregat with Fregat as its 3rd stage, developed and produced by Lavochkin Association in Khimki. A European-Russian company Starsem owns all rights to launches using this version. As of December 2014, there have been 10 launches of Soyuz-FG/Fregat with commercial payloads. Its maiden flight occurred on the 2. Jun 2003.

The analog control system of this spacecraft significantly limits its capabilities, and it will eventually be replaced by the Soyuz-2 launch vehicle.


- Boosters -

Soyuz-FG is outfitted with four liquid fueled strap-on Boosters providing extra lift during the initial phase of the flight.

All four Boosters are ignited before liftoff to reach full thrust and are jettisoned once their fuel tanks are empty. The Boosters are arranged around the central Core Stage and are tapered cylinders. The oxidizer tank is in the tapered portion of the Booster while the fuel tank is inside the cylindrical portion. Each Booster holds a total of 39.600 kg of propellants which are liquid Oxygen and Rocket Propellant 1.

A Soyuz-FG Booster is 19,6 m in length and 2,68 m in diameter. An RD-107A engine is installed on each Booster providing a thrust of 839,5 kN at liftoff. The engine utilizes a spark ignition system and can not be re-started. RD-107A features four combustion chambers that are fed by a turbopump, transferring 91 kg of Kerosene and 226 kg of Oxygen every second.



Several auxiliary pumps are used to keep the propellant tanks at flight pressure by feeding them with Nitrogen. Another pump delivers Hydrogen Peroxide to the main pump that is used to power it. A total of 1.190 kg of Hydrogen Peroxide and 280 kg of liquid Nitrogen are stored inside spherical tanks and are expended during ascent for the aforementioned purposes.

The turbopump spins at over 8.000 rpm at flight speed. The four nozzles of the RD-107A can not be gimbaled, but the engine is outfitted with two vernier jets that can be used for attitude control. Also, an aerofin is installed on the base of the Booster and also contributes to attitude stability.

The engine has a dry weight of 1.090 kg and is 2,58 m in length and 1,85 meters in diameter. All Boosters ignite about 20 s before launch to allow the turbopumps to spin up to flight speed. Also, the engines are being monitored during that period to make sure performance is nominal.

The Boosters burn for 118 s, following liftoff before being separated from the launch vehicle and impacting downrange.

- Core Stage -

The Core Stage of the Soyuz-FG vehicle acts as both, first and second stage. It is ignited prior to blastoff and continues to power the launcher after booster jettison as the second stage.

The Core Stage is 27,8 m long and 2,95 m in diameter. It is equipped with a large Oxidizer tank and a fuel tank beneath it, both holding a total of 92.950 kg of propellants. Where the Boosters interface with the Core Stage, a load carrying ring is installed to transfer loads from the Boosters to the vehicle.

On top of the Core Stage is a truss segment that interfaces with the upper stage and includes stage separation mechanisms.

The Core Stage is powered by a RD-108A engine which is similar to the Booster main engine. It also features four combustion chambers and the same pump design. The main turbopump is also powered by Hydrogen Peroxide. 2.600 kg are consumed during the burn of the stage. 520 kg of liquid Nitrogen are used to keep the propellant tanks at flight pressure during the ascent.


RD-108A provides 792,41 kN of thrust at launch. Vacuum thrust is 990 kN. The engine has a dry weight of 1.075 kg and operates at a chamber pressure of 54,43 bar. Four Vernier engines can be gimbaled to provide three-axis attitude control during the ascent phase of the mission. The first stage is ignited 20 seconds before liftoff for performance monitoring.

The Core Stage burns for 290 s before separating from the Third Stage. The two stages are separated by igniting the Third Stage to push the Core Stage away from the stack. During the second stage flight, the protective Payload Fairing and Launch Escape Tower are jettisoned to increase launcher performance.


- Block I Upper Stage -

The Third Stage of the Soyuz-FG launcher is 6,74 m in length and 2,66 m in diameter. It also uses the conventional design with the fuel tank being placed on top of the Oxygen tank.

The avionics of the Soyuz launcher are also installed on the upper stage. They provide vehicle control, telemetry and navigation for the entire flight and issue all vehicle commands autonomously. The equipment is located in the area between the two propellant tanks. The Third Stage tanks are capable of holding 22.890 kg of propellants. A RD-0110 engine is installed on the upper stage. This engine is different from the other engine types used on the Soyuz vehicle as it is a gas generator type main engine. It also has four combustion chambers and provides a total thrust of 297,9 kN.

The single turbopump of the RD-0110 is powered by gas from combustion of the main propellants, Rocket Propellant 1 and liquid Oxygen. The gas generator enables the main turbopump to spin at up to 18.400 rpm.


After moving through the turbopump, the gases from the generator are recovered and used in four altitude control thrusters. Each of the thrusters provides 6 kN of thrust and can be gimbaled.

A reaction nozzle is mounted in the side of the stage and is used for collision avoidance maneuvers by venting the LOX tank. Oxygen tank pressurization is accomplished by evaporated and heated oxygen while the RP-1 tank is pressurized with combustion products from the gas generator.

RD-0110 has dry weight of 408 kg. It is 1,58 m in length and 2,24 m in diameter. It operates at a chamber pressure of 68,2 bar. The Third Stage of the Soyuz burns for 300 seconds before deploying the Soyuz spacecraft.


- Launch Abort System -

Soyuz-FG features launch and ascent abort capabilities during the complete ascent phase. In the early portion of the mission and while sitting on the launch pad, the crew can be evacuated by the use of the SAS Launch Escape System. On top of the Soyuz rocket is a Launch Escape Tower that is used for launch aborts prior to liftoff and during the first 157 s of the flight.

The abort can be triggered by on-board computers and manually via radio signals. Events that cause an immediate launch abort include loss of control, premature booster stage separation, loss of pressure in the combustion chambers, lack of velocity and loss of thrust.

When the abort command is issued, three struts engage in the lower structural ring of the Soyuz Entry Module (the crew is in the Entry Module for launch and landing with hatches to the Orbital Module closed and latched). These struts provide a stable interface with the Payload Fairing. At that point, the two upper modules of the Soyuz are separated from the Instrumentation Module that remains attached to the launcher.

At the same time, the abort motors mounted on the Launch Escape Tower ignite and the spacecraft under the Payload Fairing is carried away from the launch vehicle. The burn has a duration of up to six seconds. The abort motors provide 715 kN of thrust.

After burnout of the escape motors, the Descent Module separates from the Orbital Module and the shroud before firing engines to drop out of the fairing. The Entry Module deploys fast-opening parachutes and the module’s heat shield is jettisoned to expose the soft landing engines. The capsule executes a nominal landing. Should the abort occur while the vehicle is still at the pad, the SAS can lift the capsule to an altitude of 1,5 km causing it to land 3 to 4 km away from the rocket.

A minimum altitude of 850 m is required to achieve full parachute deployment for a nominal landing. The minimum landing distance from the launcher is 110 m. During the abort scenario, crew members experience up to 10 G. At T+157 s, the SAS and Payload Fairing are jettisoned. After that, a variety of abort modes are available for the Soyuz spacecraft.



Depending on the abort scenario, different mechanisms are used to separate the Soyuz capsule from the rocket. After separation from the launcher, the Soyuz conducts a commanded module separation and the Entry Module uses its attitude control system to place the vehicle in the correct entry attitude. The abort trajectory that takes the Soyuz to a landing point somewhere downrange the ground track, largely depends on the timing of the failure. The later an abort occurs in the ascent, the higher the G load the crew and vehicle experiences. For an abort 400 s in the flight, up to 21 G occur on the way back to Earth. After entry, the Soyuz performs nominal landing operations to bring the crew back to the Earth. All abort scenarios are considered to be survivable by the crew.

- Payload Fairing -

The Payload Fairing protects the Soyuz spacecraft while waiting for launch at the launch pad and during atmospheric flight. It also provides structural integrity for launch abort scenarios and transfers loads from the launch escape system to the capsule.

It is jettisoned 2 min. and 40 s into the flight when the vehicle passes 85 km in altitude. At that point, aerodynamic and thermal loads are acceptable for the spacecraft to be exposed after the launcher has left the dense portion of the atmosphere. For Soyuz-FG launches with a Fregat upper stage, a variety of fairings are available while the Soyuz spacecraft is encapsulated in a different fairing that provides access to the capsule.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- PART 4 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Soyuz TMA-19M is a Russian Soyuz spaceflight launched on 15. Dec 2015, from Baikonur Cosmodrome, transporting three members of the Expedition 46 crew to the International Space Station. Soyuz TMA-19M is the 128th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft since the first one in 1967. The launch vehicle of the spacecraft Soyuz TMA-19M was Soyuz-FG.

The launch of Soyuz TMA-19M was originally scheduled for 23. Nov 2015, however, after the loss of the Progress M-27M cargo ship, in April 2015, the ISS flight schedule had a domino effect of delays. The Soyuz TMA-19M mission was eventually re-scheduled for 15. Dec 2015.

The launch vehicle with the spacecraft was rolled out to the launch pad at Site 1 in Baikonur on the morning of 13. Dec 2015.

The Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft is rolled out by train, on 13. Dec 2015, from the MIK 112 integration facility to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch Pad 1, in Kazakhstan.

The launch of the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle carrying the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft took place as scheduled, on 15. Dec 2015, at 14:03:09.328 Moscow Time (06:03 EST) from Pad No. 1, in Baikonur Cosmodrome.
A Soyuz-FG rocket has successfully lifted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 15. Dec 2015, at 11:03 UTC, carrying the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft into the orbit. The craft carried first time spaceflight flier British astronaut Tim Peake, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and NASA astronaut Tim Kopra.

The launch vehicle propelled by the simultaneous thrust of four engines of the first stage and one engine of the second stage headed east to align its ascent trajectory with the orbital plane inclined 51,67° toward the Equator. Slightly less than two minutes into the flight, the ship's Emergency Escape System separated, immediately followed by four Boosters of the first stage. The second (Core) stage of the booster continued to fire for less than five minutes into the flight. Moments before its separation, the four-chamber engine of the Third Stage ignited, firing through a lattice structure connecting two boosters. Following the separation of the Core booster, the tail section of the Third Stage split into three segments and fell away.

The docking of Soyuz TMA-19M with the ISS was scheduled on the day of the launch, at 20:24:09 Moscow Time (12:24:09 p.m. EST). The spacecraft was to berth at the Nadir (Earth-facing) docking port of the MRM1 Rassvet module on the Russian segment of the outpost.

* 23. Dec 2015, International Space Station Configuration (CW from the top): The Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft is docked to the Poisk mini-research module. The ISS Progress 61 spacecraft is docked to the Zvezda service module. The ISS Progress 62 spacecraft is docked to the Pirs docking compartment. The Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft is docked to the Rassvet mini-research module. The Cygnus-4 cargo craft is berthed to the Unity module.

However, around 20:15 Moscow Time (12:15 p.m. EST), just a few meters from the station, the KURS automated rendezvous system suddenly aborted the approach and fired attitude-control thrusters, DPO, forcing the ship away from the Station. The crew immediately switched to manual control, stopped backward movement of the spacecraft and after several minutes of re-alignment with the docking port, Yuri Malenchenko manually guided the spacecraft to a successful docking at 20:33:29 Moscow Time (12:33:29 p.m. EST), around nine minutes behind the schedule. The hatches between the transport ship and the Station were opened at 22:58 Moscow Time (2:58 p.m. EST) on 15. Dec 2015, around half an hour later than scheduled.

Although there was no immediate official explanation for the aborted automated rendezvous between the Soyuz TMA-19M and the ISS, a culprit in the failure of the DPO-B No. 20 attitude-control thruster was quickly found. This small engine is a part of the two independent engine clusters known as Circuit 1 and Circuit 2. Distributed around the ship's instrument module, PAO, both groups of small engines are used to fine-tune the spacecraft's orientation in space and to conduct low-thrust maneuvers. The particular engine provides a sideway thrust along -Y axis in the ship's coordinate system.

What really happened? At a distance of around 17 m from the Station, an alarm sounded in the Soyuz's cockpit indicated a problem with the particular thruster and the numeric code for the failure type was also displayed.
Immediately thereafter, the Soyuz began backing away from the station still under the automated control. Yuri Malenchenko reported to mission control that the crew received the DPOB 20-type failure.
For a reason yet to be explained, the automated system apparently failed to switch to a backup circuit available just for such a contingency. After switching to manual controls, it took the Soyuz commander two attempts to put the spacecraft into right orientation and complete the docking. During the first try, the spacecraft began a seemingly faster-than-normal approach to the Station. It also appeared that the spacecraft made a sudden sideway turn just meters from the docking port, though a further evaluation indicated that the spacecraft might have been out of alignment from the outset and its wrong position became more obvious as the spacecraft approached.

Fortunately, Malenchenko quickly managed to stabilize the spacecraft, restore its alignment with a docking port on the MIM1 Rassvet module and complete the second manual docking attempt. Shortly after docking, Malenchenko explained mission control that during his first manual approach attempt he could not see the docking port clear enough and only realized the problem at the last minute.

The investigation into the incident, during docking on 15. Dec 2015, concluded that the failed chamber pressure sensor in the attitude control thruster No. 20 (DPO-20) had caused the failure of the automated rendezvous process. The thruster itself apparently functioned as planned. At the same time, serious questions were also raised about the actions of the crew and mission control in emergency, industry sources said.

Not surprisingly, Malenchenko's actions during his initial nearly disastrous manual docking attempt came under scrutiny to identify possible pilot errors. According to industry sources, the Soyuz commander's problems likely stem from poor lighting, and which prevented him from clearly seeing docking targets on the MIM1 Rassvet module. Yet, instead of waiting for better conditions, the pilot pressed ahead with a nearly blind approach only to find his ship positioned out of alignment with the docking port and moving above the speed limit for safe berthing, sources said. The ship's KURS rendezvous antenna also apparently lost its lock on the target. Critics suggest that the pilot might have been under pressure from mission control to complete docking as soon as possible.

At the time of the aborted automated approach, the Soyuz TMA-19M was around three minutes from entering Earth's shadow, which would require to conduct all manual operations under night-time conditions. Moreover, in another 15 minutes, Soyuz and ISS would go out of range of communications with the mission control in Korolev.

At the peak of the crisis, the flight director for the Russian segment of the ISS, Vladimir Soloviev, himself a veteran of two space missions and a towering figure in the Russian space establishment, called on the crew, essentially jumping over both, the head of the on-duty team, SRP, and the chief communications officer. Although Soloviev is well known for his hands-on management style, critics charged that his involvement could place an undue sense of urgency on Malenchenko, at a time when a calm and collected response was needed. In any case, Malenchenko failed to do something he had done hundreds of times in the simulator, critics charged. Fortunately, within minutes after the near collision, Malenchenko was able to stabilize the spacecraft and complete the second manual docking attempt successfully.

Engineers are now analyzing all the available telemetry, as well as video and audio data in order to recreate the exact sequence of events and to model the Soyuz' approach trajectory during the botched docking attempt...

Aboard the ISS, the crew of Soyuz TMA-19M joined three other members of the Expedition 46: commander Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov. Expedition 46 officially started with the departure of Soyuz TMA-17M from ISS, on 11. Dec 2015. Expedition 46 should conclude on 1. Mar 2016, when the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft is scheduled to head back to the Earth with Kelly, Kornienko and Volkov onboard.

In the meantime, the Soyuz TMA-19M is expected to remain docked at the ISS until 5. Jun 2016, overlapping with Expedition 47.

Soyuz TMA-19M will depart with the same crew it had carried on its way up. Both will log 173 days in space, even though, according to original plans, the mission was to last 142 days, until 5. May 2016.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- PART 5 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

* International Space Station - ISS *

The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in Low Earth Orbit. Its first component was launched into orbit in 1998, and the ISS is now the largest artificial body in the orbit and can often be seen with the naked eye from the Earth.The ISS consists of pressurized modules, external trusses, solar arrays and other components. ISS components have been launched by Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets as well as American Space Shuttles. The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitude of between 330 and 435 km (205 and 270 mi.) by means of reboost maneuvers using the engines of the Zvezda module or visiting spacecraft. It completes 15,54 orbits per day, traveling around the Earth at an average speed of 27.600 km/h - 17.100 mph.

The Station is serviced by a variety of visiting spacecrafts: Soyuz, Progress, the Automated Transfer Vehicle, the H-II Transfer Vehicle, Dragon and Cygnus. It has been visited by astronauts, cosmonauts and space tourists from the different nations. After the US Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, Soyuz rockets became the only provider of transport for astronauts at the International Space Station.

The ISS program is a joint project among five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA. According to the original Memorandum of Understanding between NASA and Rosaviakosmos, the International Space Station was intended to be a laboratory, observatory and factory in Low Earth Orbit. It was also planned to provide transportation, maintenance, and act as a staging base for possible future missions to the Moon, Mars and asteroids, but later on, the ISS was also given some additional roles of serving commercial, diplomatic and educational purposes.

* STS-133 International Space Station

The assembly of the International Space Station, a major endeavor in space architecture, began in November 1998. Russian modules were launched and docked roboticaly, with the exception of Rassvet. All other modules were delivered by the Space Shuttles, which required installation by ISS and shuttle crew-members using the Canadarm2 SSRMS (Space Station Remote Manipulator System) and EVAs (Extravehicular Activity); as of 5. Jun 2011, they had added 159 components during more than 1.000 hours of EVAs. 127 of these spacewalks originated from the station, and the remaining 32 were launched from the airlocks of docked Space Shuttles.

* STS-134 International Space Station

* International Space Station layout

* International Space Station panoramic tour

Nice regards


P.S. To the current International Space Station´s crew:

(from left to right) commander Scott Kelly, Sergey Volkov, Mikhail Kornienko, Timothy Kopra, Timothy Peake and Yuri Malenchenko ...


... and to all forum members and the readers, I wish a blessed, joyful and with the many beautiful moments, those that can not be forgotten easily, fulfilled 2016. year.

God bless You all and keep You!

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RE: Soyuz-TMA-19M Launch

Sat Jan 02, 2016 4:27 pm

Man! You've been busy!

thank you very much.
... and a happy and succesful 2016
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RE: Soyuz-TMA-19M Launch

Sat Jan 02, 2016 10:17 pm

Appreciate the post, Mario.

I've always been interested in how the Russians transport the assembled rocket horizontally by rail and then raise it at the launch pad, instead of the vertical transportation using the crawler for the shuttle. I believe this is quicker and less susceptible to the vagaries of weather. What are the downsides of this approach? It certainly can't be complexity, I would assume building something like the crawler is more complex than the mechanism used to erect the Soyuz. Anyone know why this approach is not used more widely?

My only other reference would be India's ISRO, who also use vertical transportation. At the SHAR complex, lauch pad one has the building move away, while pad 2 has the assembled rocket arriving vertically.
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RE: Soyuz-TMA-19M Launch

Sun Jan 03, 2016 1:26 pm

Quoting sturmovik (Reply 4):
What are the downsides of this approach?

The assembled structure has to be able to withstand lying flat and being raised
with the tankage unfilled and unpressurized.

AFAIK most US launchers are lighter but not designed for that load case.
The stage would crumble.

Soviet/Russian stuff tends to be more KISS and properly done at that.

funny factoid:
When the Soyuz launch complex was built at the ESA site in French Guiana
it included some nooks and crannies in the concrete work that didn't have
any known purpose. But they existed in the original site and it was thought
prudent to copy these details.
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RE: Soyuz-TMA-19M Launch

Sun Jan 03, 2016 8:55 pm

Quoting WIederling (Reply 5):

Ah, okay, thanks. Didn't think of that.

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