Above: The primary crew of the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft during preparations for flight in Baikonur in November 2010 (left to right): NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and Italian astronaut representing European Space Agency, Paolo Nespoli. Credit: NASA
Integration of the habitation module during replacement of the descent capsule of the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft in Baikonur in October 2010. Credit: RKK Energia
A series of photos of the Soyuz TMA-20 crew taken during fit checks in Baikonur provides a rare look into the descent capsule and the habitation module of the Soyuz TMA spacecraft. Credit: RKK Energia
Preparations of the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft for encapsulation into the payload fairing of the Soyuz rocket on Dec. 7, 2010. Credit: RKK Energia
The transporter/erector (right) is lowered after installation of the Soyuz FG rocket with Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft onto the launch pad on Dec. 13, 2010. Credit: RKK Energia
Soyuz TMA-20 lifts off on Dec. 15, 2010. Credit: TsENKI
"ISS Exp(detion) 26, Here we come" reads the message in the front-facing window of the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft, as it approaches the station on Dec. 17, 2010. Credit: NASA
Artist rendering of Expose-R experiment, which was removed by spacewalking cosmonauts on Jan. 21, 2011. Credit: NASA
TV camera and the location on the MIM-1 module where it was installed during a spacewalk on Jan. 21, 2011. Credit: NASA
Japan's H-IIB F2 launch vehicle with HTVII cargo ship lifts off on Jan. 22, 2011. Credit: JAXA
Soyuz TMA-20 undocks from ISS on May 24, 2011. Credit: NASA TV
An inside view of the Soyuz FG rocket fairing for the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft. Credit: RKK Energia
Previous mission: Soyuz TMA-01M
Soyuz TMA-20 (No. 230) was scheduled to fly to the International Space Station, ISS, at the end of 2010. In the ISS schedule, the mission was known as 25S. As of November 2001, the expedition was expected to last 152 days and return to Earth in May 2011.
Soyuz pre-launch processing
According to early schedules, Soyuz TMA-20 was to be launched on Nov. 30, 2010. By the time the spacecraft arrived at the Baikonur launch site on Oct. 3 2010, its liftoff was scheduled for Dec. 13, 2010. However in the process of unloading, or a day later during the installation of the spacecraft into its test rig at Site 254, engineers discovered some damage to the railway car which had been used to transport the spacecraft from the assembly center in Korolev, near Moscow, to Kazakhstan. In reports by semi-official Russian media, industry sources rushed to blame the train machinist, who allegedly violated safety rules while driving the train, which caused one of the attachments of the spacecraft inside the railway transporter to break and the spacecraft to "fall." However posters on the forum of the Novosti Kosmonavtiki magazine said that the spacecraft had not been secured correctly in the car by the manufacturer.
Whatever the reason, during the final leg of the trip, (which could be the responsibility of the Kazakh railways, if railroads were ultimately to be blamed), the spacecraft was reportedly shifting around inside its transporter along with the movements of the train. However, on Oct. 7, the Kazakh railway company said that on Sept. 30, 2010, it had transferred the train to Russian authorities at the entrance of Baikonur with no complains from the Russian side. A day later, Kazakh railways also said that speed data recorded during the movement of the train showed no violations of any rules, no emergency brakes had ever been engaged and the train was driven by a highly experienced crew. In the end, Russian officials never filed any formal complains against Kazakh railways and RKK Energia officials later quoted the possibility of damaging the spacecraft during its unloading in Baikonur upon its arrival at the launch center.
Although initially officials told that the problem would not affect the launch schedule, by Oct. 5, Russian media reported that the damage to the spacecraft itself was significant enough to require a return of the spacecraft to Korolev for refurbishment. The bottom shield of the descent module, SA, reportedly shifted by 1.5 millimeters, possibly causing small cracks in the structure and damage the shield's attachment locks. In addition, a special covering on the propulsion section of the spacecraft had been breached.
By October 8, after weighing the option of returning Soyuz TMA-20 to Korolev, Russian space officials made the decision to replace its descent module, SA, in Baikonur. The hardware prepared for Soyuz TMA-21 would be used. Despite the additional time needed for repairs, Russian officials said that the launch of Soyuz TMA-20 would still take place before the end of 2010, possibly with a delay of few days, compared to the previous schedule. A launch date of Dec. 27 was initially quoted, but a delay of between 10 days and two months was considered likely by European officials involved in the mission. By October 12, a new descent module has arrived to Baikonur onboard a transport plane. Along with it, a group of engineers flew to Baikonur to support three-shift work on the replacement of the descent module. According to Roskosmos, the replacement was completed by October 16, 2010. Four days later the spacecraft was ready for tests in the vacuum chamber. By Oct. 22, the launch date for the Soyuz TMA-20 had been set for December 15, 2010.
Another complication in the runup to the Soyuz TMA-20 flight was caused by the record height -- 188 centimeters -- of the European astronaut Paulo Nespoli. According to the president of RKK Energia, Vitaly Lopota, a custom-built seat and related hardware had to be manufactured, after the company first discovered how tall Nespoli was. Nespoli was believed to be the tallest crew member ever to fly onboard Soyuz.
The Soyuz FG rocket with Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Site 1 on Dec. 15, 2010, at 22:09:25 Moscow Time (19:09 GMT). The spacecraft successfully reached orbit ten minutes later. Onboard were three members of the 26th and 27th long-duration station crews: Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman and Italian astronaut representing European Space Agency, Paolo Nespoli.
Following launch and the two-day chase of the station in orbit, Soyuz TMA-20 docked to the MIM1 Rassvet module of the outpost as planned on Dec. 17, 2010, at 23:12 Moscow Time (20:12 GMT). The opening of hatches between the station and the transport ship was planned for 02:05 Moscow Time (December 18).
Two Russian cosmonauts ventured outside the International Space Station on Jan. 21, 2011, to complete installation of a new high-speed data transmission system, remove an old plasma pulse experiment, install a camera for the new MIM1 Rassvet docking module and retrieve a materials exposure package, NASA announced.
Expedition 26 Flight Engineers Dmitry Kondratyev and Oleg Skripochka began the five-hour, 23-minute excursion at 9:29 a.m. EST. Both spacewalkers wore Russian Orlan-MK spacesuits.
Kondratyev was designated as Extravehicular 1 (EV1), with a red stripe on his suit, and Skripochka was EV2, with a blue stripe on his suit. Skripochka also wore a NASA-provided wireless television camera system and helmet lights to provide live point-of-view video to Mission Control-Moscow, which provided ground support for the spacewalk. Mission Control-Houston monitored the spacewalk as well.
Before the spacewalk began, Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri climbed into their Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft, which was docked to the MIM2 Poisk module on the opposite side of Zvezda from the airlock, and sealed the hatches between Zvezda and Poisk. This protected against the unlikely possibility of a sudden station depressurization and also allowed for the use of the forward portion of Zvezda as a backup airlock if necessary. Flight Engineers Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli were in the U.S. segment and had access to their Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft, which is docked to the MIM1 Rassvet module adjacent to Pirs docking compartment on the Zarya FGB control module; therefore they did not need to be sequestered.
As sunrise dawned on the station, Kondratyev and Skripochka opened the Pirs hatch and began exiting the Russian segment of the station. They took with them a spacewalk tool carrier, an antenna and cable reel for the data transmission system, and protective covers for the experiments they were to bring back inside the station. All was temporarily affixed to the Zvezda service module’s exterior for handy access near the respective work sites.
The first job was to deploy the antenna for the Radio Technical System for Information Transfer, an experimental system designed to enable large data files to be downlinked using radio technology at a speed of about 100 megabytes a second from the Russian segment of the station. The system is similar to the NASA system already in use. Later in the spacewalk, the crew also routed external cabling to connect the antenna to patch panels connecting it to the cabling and computer systems already installed inside the station. They also jettisoned the antenna’s hatbox-shaped cover and the cable reel.
While in the airlock, they grabbed the new docking camera for the MIM1 Rassvet module and carried it to the worksite on Rassvet. During Russian spacewalk 26 in November 2010, the crew had trouble installing the camera due to interference with multi-layer insulation adjacent to the camera mount. So, once outside again, Kondratyev and Skripochka used a special cutter to rip the threads on some of the insulation material to allow full access to the camera mount. Once the camera was installed, they mated the camera’s cable to a pre-wired connector that will route the video into the station. The camera isn’t crucial to Soyuz and Progress dockings on Rassvet, but provides additional information and situational awareness for remote-control operations when necessary.
With all tasks complete, Kondratyev and Skripochka re-entered the Pirs airlock and ended their spacewalk at 2:52 p.m. This was the 152nd spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance, totaling 956 hours, 14 minutes. It was the 124th out of space station airlocks and the 36th Russian segement-based spacewalk. Skripochka’s two spacewalks total 11 hours, 50 minutes. It was Kondratyev’s first excursion.
Kondratyev and Skripochka were also scheduled to conduct the next space station spacewalk, then planned for Feb. 16, 2011.
Japan's HTVII cargo ship flies
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the Kounotori2 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV2) aboard an H-IIB rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan at 12:37 a.m. EST (2:27 p.m. Japan time) on Jan. 22, 2011, NASA said.
HTV2 is the second unpiloted cargo ship launched by JAXA to the International Space Station and will deliver more than four tons of food and supplies to the station and its crew members.
The first launch attempt on Thursday was postponed due to inclement weather at the launch site. JAXA flight controllers modified HTV2’s orbit to reflect a five-day rendezvous to the station with grapple and berthing still scheduled for January 27.
Expedition 26 Flight Engineers Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli will command the station's robotic arm, Canadarm2, to reach out, grapple Kounotori2 and attach it to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module.
In the following days, a pallet loaded with spare station parts will be extracted from a slot in the cargo ship and attached to an experiment platform outside the Japanese Kibo module. Other cargo will be transferred internally to the station.
The cargo vehicle will be filled with trash, detached from the station and sent to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere at the end of March.
On May 24, 2011, at 01:35:17 Moscow Time (May 23, 21:35 GMT), Soyuz TMA-20 with Dmitry Kondratyev, Paolo Nespoli and Catherine Coleman onboard undocked from the MIM1 Rassvet module of the International Space Station, ISS. The spacecraft then stopped at the distance of around 200 meters from the station to take unique visual documentation of the outpost in the presence of the Space Shuttle.
While Dmitry Kondratyev was at the controls of the Soyuz, Paolo Nespoli went from the spacecraft's descent module to the habitation module, which provided an ideal vantage point for photography.
From 01:50 to 02:10 Moscow Time, Paolo Nespoli recorded video footage and took still photographs of the outpost, as it slowly rotated in front of the spacecraft. Upon completing the historic footage, Nespoli returned to the descent module and hatches between two compartments were closed in preparation for landing.
The 255.4-second braking engine firing to sent Soyuz TMA-20 into the atmosphere was scheduled to begin at 05:36:51 Moscow Time on May 24, 2011.
According to the mission control in Korolev, Soyuz TMA-20 successfully landed on May 24, 2011, at 06:27 Moscow Time (02:27 GMT), at the planned landing area east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, after 159 days in space.
Soyuz TMA-20 primary crew:
Soyuz TMA-20 pre-launch processing milestones (factual):
Expedition 26 planned milestones (as of November 2010):
2010 Dec. 20: Progress (Mission 39P) undocking
2011 January: Spacewalk onboard the Russian segment of the ISS (EVA-27) Skripochka and Kondratyev are to set up and connect rendezvous telemetry equipment, remove and reinstall a video camera from the active to the passive side of the Rassvet module’s docking assembly, and remove a passive materials sample experiment cassette, and remove from the Zvezda transfer compartment cone an antenna used for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV).
2011 Jan. 24: Progress (Mission 40P) undocking
2011 Jan 28: Progress (Mission 41P) to launch from Baikonur
2011 Jan. 30: Progress (Mission 41P) to dock to the ISS
2011 February: Skripochka and Kondratyev, scheduled to conduct the third spacewalk of the Expedition 25 and 26 missions in February to install a radio antenna, deploy a nano satellite, install two experiments and retrieve two exposure panels on a third experiment.
2011 Feb. 15: ATV-2, named Johannes Kepler after the German astronomer and mathematician, to launch from Kourou, French Guiana, carrying six tons of food, clothing, propellants, water and oxygen.
2011 Mid-March: Soyuz TMA-01M undocking and landing with Kelly, Kaleri and Skripochka onboard.
2011 Spring: STS-134 Endeavour, (Utilization and Logistics Flight 6), will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and mount the instrument to the station’s truss structure where it will use the power generated by the station’s solar arrays to support observations of cosmic rays. Looking at various types of unusual matter found in the universe will allow AMS researchers to study the formation of the universe and search for evidence of dark matter and antimatter. In addition, STS-134 will deliver ExPRESS Logistics Carrier 3 (ELC-3), which will hold a variety of spare parts. The STS-134 mission will include three spacewalks to lubricate the port solar alpha rotary joints that allow the arrays to track the sun as they generate electricity, install ammonia jumper hoses for the station’s cooling system, stow the orbiter boom sensor system outside the station for future use as an inspection tool, and retrieve a set of materials exposure experiments for return to Earth. Astronaut Mark Kelly is commander of STS-134 mission, and as such, he and twin brother Scott Kelly will become the first siblings to ever fly in space together. If the launch schedule holds, the pair will be working together in orbit for eight days
2011: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s H-II Transfer Vehicle, or HTV-2. HTV will rendezvous to within a few meters of the space station and then be grappled by the station’s Canadarm2 and berthed to the Harmony module’s Earth-facing common berthing mechanism port. It, too, is capable of delivering up to six tons of supplies
Next mission: Soyuz TMA-21
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Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: January 26, 2011
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