Previous mission: Soyuz TMA-11
The mission of the Soyuz TMA-12 (No. 222) spacecraft, taking off in the spring of 2008 had a goal of delivering and returning the 17th long-duration crew to the International Space Station. The launch of the Soyuz FG rocket was scheduled for April 8, 2008, at 15:16:35 Moscow Summer Time. (In preliminary schedules, the mission was planned as early as March 2008). During the flight to the station, the Expedition 17 crew was joined by a South-Korean "spaceflight participant" flying under a commercial agreement between Russia and South Korea. She would return to Earth with Expedition 16 after around 10 days in orbit.
Expedition 17 crews:
According to the original plans approved in September 2007, a South Korean computer engineer Ko San from the Samsung research center was selected as a primary candidate for the mission onboard Soyuz TMA-12 and a biologist So-yeon Yi from the Academy of Science and Technology was appointed as his backup. However, at the beginning of March 2008, Russian authorities demanded the replacement of Ko San in the crew for repeated violations of the rules for handling sensitive documentation.
According to the Russian press, Ko San repeatedly took a flight control manual for the Soyuz spacecraft off the premises of the Gagarin Training Center in Star City without permission. As a passenger onboard the Soyuz, he apparently was not suppose to have access to the document. The alleged violations occurred in September 2007 and February 2008. On March 10, 2008, the head of the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, Anatoly Perminov announced that the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology agreed to replace the primary candidate with a backup. Ko San remained in Russia and continued serving as a backup to So-yeon Yi.
2008 April 3: In Baikonur, members of the primary and backup crews of the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft conducted a final inspection of their spacecraft in flight configuration. They also inspected the Progress M-64 spacecraft, which was being prepared for launch in May 2008.
2008 April 5: At Site 112 in Baikonur, engineers conducted the final assembly of the Soyuz-FG rocket connecting the payload section to the booster stages of the rocket in preparation for the rollout to the launch pad. In the second half of the day, the State Commission overseeing the launch conducted a meeting which gave a go ahead to the rollout of the launch vehicle to the launch pad.
2008 April 8: Russia launched the 17th long-duration crew for a half-a-year shift onboard the International Space Station.
The Soyuz FG rocket carrying the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft, blasted off from the launch pad at Site 1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, April 8, 2008, at 6:16 Houston Time (15:16:39 Moscow Time) as scheduled.
A few minutes after the launch, the spacecraft successfully reached orbit. According to Russian space officials, solar panels onboard the Soyuz had deployed, and all systems worked flawlessly.
Onboard was a crew of three, including Russian cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, along with South-Korean researcher, So-yeon Yi, flying under a commercial agreement between Russia and South Korea.
Shortly before launch, as the crew was already onboard the spacecraft, flight controllers were looking at a problem with a zipper on Volkov's spacesuit. The cosmonaut reported that during the pressurization, a small area of the internal bladder of the suit bulged through the zipper. The problem was quickly resolved, according to NASA officials.
After a two-day autonomous flight, Soyuz TMA-12 was scheduled to dock with the station on April 10, 2008, around 8 a.m. Houston Time.
The 17th expedition is expected to remain onboard the station until October 2008.
2008 April 10: The Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft successfully docked at the Pirs docking compartment of the station on April 10, 2008, at 7:57 a.m. Houston Time, as the two vehicles were flying over northern Kazakhstan. The opening of the hatches between the station and the spacecraft took place around 10:40 Houston Time on April 10, 2008.
Expedition 17 milestones (as of April 2008):
2008 May 4: In the wake of problems during the landing of the Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft last month, Russian space officials made a decision to cancel a scheduled re-docking of the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft, which is currently in orbit. The Soyuz TMA-12 with the crew onboard was scheduled to conduct a short flight from the Pirs Docking Compartment of the station to the nadir (Earth-facing) port of the Zarya FGB control module on May 6, 2008.
According to NASA, the maneuver was postponed until late August or early September 2008, In addition to providing extra time for the investigation of the Soyuz TMA-11 landing, it also would allow for the delivery of a new Sokol launch and entry suit for Volkov on a future Progress cargo ship launch. The suit Volkov wore for launch and docking on April 8 and 10 has a broken zipper, NASA said.
The decision to cancel the maneuver was widely anticipated, since the failure of Soyuz TMA-12 to dock would then require it to make an emergency landing. However, Russian officials are still investigating the cause of problems during the landing of Soyuz TMA-11 and it is still unknown if the current mission can return home safely.
A report in the Novosti Kosmonavtiki web forum said that an emergency spacewalk by the station crew was being considered to determine the status of one of the pyrotechnic locks onboard Soyuz TMA-12. This will happen, should the ongoing investigation confirm that a similar device was a culprit in the failure of separation between the crew module and the propulsion module during the return of the Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft in May, as well the similar incident during the Soyuz TMA-10 return last fall.
The latest developments in orbit and on the ground affected several other missions "downstream" in the ISS schedule:
2008 July 7: Two cosmonauts onboard the International Space Station, ISS, will venture outside Thursday to remove a pyrotechnical device from their Soyuz spacecraft, in an effort to uncover the source of problems during recent landings at the end of the Soyuz TMA-10 and TMA-11 missions.
The commander of Expedition 17 Sergei Volkov and Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko will stage their spacewalk from the Pirs Docking Compartment on the Russian segment of the station. Crewmembers will use a movable Strela (Arrow) boom on the exterior of the station to reach the truss connecting the reentry capsule and the service module of the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft that is docked to the Pirs’ nadir (Earth-facing) docking port.
There, cosmonauts dressed in bulky and fragile spacesuits will use razor-sharp blade to cut the layers of thermal insulation covering the connecting truss and remove one of two pyrotechnic bolts in lock No. 5, which is one of five pairs of bolts used to separate the reentry capsule and the service module before the return to Earth. Engineers concluded that the failure of lock No. 5 to open at the end of the previous two missions prevented normal separation of the Soyuz modules and resulted in rough ballistic reentries of both ships and touchdowns far from the primary landing area.
During six-month shifts at the ISS, both Soyuz ships remained docked to the station, with lock No. 5 facing against the direction of the flight. Engineers are trying to determine whether certain environmental conditions, such as temperature fluctuations, plazma field or electromagnetic conditions could cause pyrobolts in the same position to fail two times in a row.
Complex tasks given to the crew, made several aspects of this spacewalk unique in the history of space exploration. To cut through the insulation on the Soyuz, cosmonauts dressed in bulky and fragile spacesuits would use a razor-sharp blade, a dangerous work in the vacuum of space. (The knife did have a dull tip, NASA officials stressed.)
They will also employ a blast-proof container to store a potentially explosive pyrotechnical bolt, so it could be carried inside the pressurized compartments of the space station and eventually returned to Earth onboard the Soyuz TMA-12. It is apparently the first instance of bringing an explosive device inside the spacecraft. Prior to its removal, the bolt will be disconnected from the electrical circuitry of the spacecraft. All potentially dangerous scenarios, including static discharge, had been evaluated and tested to ensure the safety of the crew, NASA officials said Tuesday.
Upon removal of the pyrobolt, the crew will leave lock No. 5 in the unlocked position, leaving two sections of the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft connected with four other locks. Just three functioning locks would be enough to ensure secure connections of the modules, officials said.
To add to the list of risks during the spacewalk is the fact that cosmonauts will be working right next to a pair of attitude control thrusters onboard Soyuz, which burn toxic propellant. Two specially designed covers will be used to temporarily cap the protruding nozzles. Both crewmembers were instructed to watch for possible contamination of their suits. At the end of the spacewalk, cosmonauts will have to toss engine covers away from the station.
This previously unplanned spacewalk is expected to last around five hours and 43 minutes with the opening of the hatch to take place on July 10, 2008, around 22:12 Moscow Time. The Expedition 17 crew spent the last few weeks preparing for the improvised work outside the station in coordination with a team, which rehearsed the same activities on the ground. The original plan included only an inspection of lock No. 5. However, as engineers struggled to determine the exact root cause of the problem, the retrieval of a pyrotechnic bolt was deemed necessary.
On the day of the spacewalk, the third member of the crew -- a NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff -- will be inside the Soyuz spacecraft with the ship’s hatches closed. Chamitoff's stay inside Soyuz ensures that in the unlikely event of the failure to pressurize the Pirs docking compartment at the end of the spacewalk, he would not be stranded onboard the station. Due to the current position of the Soyuz at the docking port of Pirs, there would be no "short-sleeve" access to the lifeboat transport ship, while the docking compartment is unpressurized. However, spacesuited cosmonauts can use a habitation module onboard Soyuz as a backup airlock, in case Pirs fails to pressurize.
According to mission control in Korolev, the spacewalk has the following scenario:
If time allows, the crew will attempt to install a docking target on the Plane 4 of the transfer section of the service module. It will be used for the docking of a new Russian module, currently scheduled for launch in the second half of 2009:
If everything goes as scheduled, the crew will conduct a second, (originally planned spacewalk), on July 15, 2008.
Cosmonauts complete risky spacewalk
Published: 2008 July 10
Two Russian cosmonauts went outside of the International Space Station, ISS, Thursday in a risky attempt to remove a pyrotechnic device from their transport ship.
The commander of Expedition 17 Sergei Volkov and Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko started their spacewalk out of the Pirs docking compartment around 22:48 Moscow Time, or around five minutes behind schedule.
Crewmembers had to use a movable Strela (Arrow) boom on the exterior of the station to reach the truss connecting the reentry capsule and the service module of the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft that is docked to the Pirs’ nadir (Earth-facing) docking port. However around one hour 30 minutes after the beginning of the spacewalk, Kononenko still failed to attach his feet to the foot restraint at the end of Strela. As a result, ground control instructed Kononenko to attach himself to the arm of Strela with the use of safety tethers. The transfer to Soyuz then proceeded successfully. Kononenko was reminded to touch insulation on the Soyuz with his hand first and not to let Strela to touch the vehicle.
Upon reaching the work site on the Soyuz, Kononenko started photographing the area. The cosmonaut then installed covers on the attitude control engine nozzles near the work area, as Sergei Volkov started moving toward Kononenko. "I feel sorry for the ship," said Kononenko, as he was preparing to cut the insulation on the Soyuz to reach the wiring leading toward pyrobolts, "I hope we heal it rather then hurt it," a mission controller replied." As Kononenko started cutting through the insulation, mission control warned him to keep his left hand away from the knife. "You don't want to cut your glove," a controller said. Around 2.5 hours after the beginning of the spacewalk, the crew cut and removed enough insulation layers to access the pyrobolt and associated hardware.
According to NASA, cosmonauts successfully demated electrical connectors and cut a wire tie between adjacent pyrobolts in the suspect position. Volkov unscrewed and retrieved one of the pyrobolts there. With help from Kononenko he stowed it in a protective blast-proof cylindrical case. The spacewalkers installed a thermal blanket over their work area and took photos of the site.
Kononenko and Volkov moved back to the Strela controls and maneuvered the crane back to its stowage position on Pirs. They stowed a bag with the container holding the pyrobolt in the airlock. It will be returned to Earth for examination. However the installation of a docking target, a get-ahead task on this spacewalk, was postponed till Tuesday, July 15, during a second spacewalk. The cosmonauts returned to Pirs, entered the airlock and closed the hatch at 05:06 Moscow Time on July 11, 2008, after six hours and 18 minutes outside.
Cosmonauts complete their second spacewalk
Published: 2008 July 15
International Space Station Commander Sergei Volkov and Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko wound up a five-hour, 54-minute spacewalk at 7:02 p.m. EDT Tuesday after installing one experiment and retrieving another, NASA said.
In this spacewalk, their second in less than a week, they also continued to outfit the station's exterior, including the installation of a docking target on the Zvezda service module. It will help with the docking of a Russian mini research module on the space-facing side of Zvezda. That module will be launched next year.
The spacewalk was in Russian Orlan suits from the Pirs docking compartment. Volkov, the lead spacewalker or EV1, wore the suit with red stripes. Kononenko, EV2, wore the blue-striped suit.
Soyuz TMA-12 lands safely
Published: 2008 Oct. 24
The Russian spacecraft returned to Earth Friday after a flawless half-a-year mission to the International Space Station, ISS.
The Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft landed Oct. 24, 2008, at 07:37:10 Moscow Time, or just 17 seconds earlier than scheduled. It carried members of the Expedition 17 to the International Space Station Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, along with a tourist Richard Garriott. Volkov and Kononenko spent 198 days in space, while Garriott arrived to the station onboard a fresh Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft 12 days ago.
A touchdown took place in the primary landing site north of the city of Arkalyk, and the mission was seemed to be free of technical problems, which plagued Soyuz TMA-11 and Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft on their way home. The official statement of the Russian space agency, Roskosmos said that during the controlled descent, the crew maintained a stable radio-contact with the ground.
Next mission: Soyuz TMA-13
Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: November 15, 2018
Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: July 7, 2008
All rights reserved
The primary crew of the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft poses in front of its mission logo on the payload fairing of the launch vehicle. Credit: RKK Energia
The Soyuz FG rocket with the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft is being erected on the launch pad on April 6, 2008. Credit: RKK Energia
The crewmembers of the Soyuz-TMA-12 spacecraft inside the capsule shortly before the launch on Tuesday, April 8, 2008. Credit NASA TV
South-Korean researcher, So-yeon Yi can be seen in the right seat inside the reentry capsule of the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft shortly before her launch on Tuesday, April 8, 2008. At age 29, she became the youngest woman to fly into space. Credit: NASA TV
The Soyuz TMA-12 blasts off on Tuesday, April 8, 2008. Credit: NASA TV
The Soyuz TMA-12 as seen from the station, shortly before docking Thursday, April 10, 2008. Credit: NASA TV
The International Space Station, as viewed from the approaching Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft on April 10, 2008. A newly arrived ATV cargo ship is clearly visible in the top right corner of the image. Credit: NASA TV
A schematic showing the area of the pyrotechnical bolt removal. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2008 Anatoly Zak
An equivalent of a truss connecting the reentry capsule and the service module of the Soyuz spacecrat. Credit: NASA TV
An eight-inch long blast-proof container designed for carrying a pyrotechnical device. Credit: NASA TV
Cosmonauts work outside the Pirs docking compartment on July 10, 2008. Credit: NASA TV
Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko rides Strela crane during EVA around 00:30 Moscow Time on July 10, 2008. Credit: NASA TV
Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko approaches the work area on the Soyuz spacecraft during EVA on July 10, 2008. Credit: NASA TV
Commander Sergei Volkov (top) operates the Strela hand-powered crane to position Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko during the July 15, 2008, spacewalk. Credit: NASA TV