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Russia launches fresh crew to ISS

The Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft carried three members of the International Space Station, ISS, crew, who represented a part of the 40th and 41st long-duration expeditions onboard the outpost. NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, cosmonaut Maxim Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst are expected to work on the station for five and a half months.

Previous mission: Soyuz TMA-12M

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Above: At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 40 Flight Engineers Alexander Gerst (left), Maksim Suraev (center) and Reid Wiseman pose for pictures in front of their Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft. Credit: NASA



The liftoff of a Soyuz-FG rocket with the Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft took place as scheduled on May 28, 2014, at 23:57:41 Moscow Time (3:57 p.m. EDT) from Site 1 at Baikonur Cosmodrome. The launch vehicle followed a standard ascent trajectory to insert its payload into a 200 by 242-kilometer orbit with an inclination 51.67 degrees toward the Equator.



Above: ISS as seen by the Soyuz TMA-13M crew shortly before docking.

Less than six hours later, at 05:44 Moscow Time on May 29 (9:44 p.m. EDT on May 28) Soyuz TMA-13M docked to the MIM1 Rassvet module on the Earth-facing side of Russian segment of the station, just four minutes ahead of projected time.

Commander Steve Swanson and Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev and Aleksandr Skvortsov, who have been aboard the complex since March 27, 2014, welcomed the new flight engineers aboard when the hatches opened around 11:25 p.m.

The crew was scheduled to return to Earth onboard their Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft in November 2014 after 167 days in space.


Russian spacewalkers Maksim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev closed the Pirs docking compartment hatch at 1:06 p.m. EDT ending the third spacewalk for Expedition 41, NASA said. The cosmonauts were outside the International Space Station for three hours and 38 minutes. Two U.S. spacewalks took place Oct. 7 and 15, 2014.

The duo’s first task was to remove the Radiometriya experiment that was installed on the Zvezda service module in 2011 and which is no longer required for data collection. They jettisoned it for a later reentry into the atmosphere where it will burn up. The experiment gathered data to help scientists predict seismic events and earthquakes.

The veteran cosmonauts moved on to another external experiment and removed its protective cover. They photographed the Expose-R experiment before taking a break during the orbital night period. After orbital sunrise, they took more photographs of the work area, translated back to Pirs and placed the protective cover inside. The European Space Agency study exposes organic and biological samples to the harsh environment of space and observes how they are affected by cosmic radiation, vacuum and night and day cycles.

Suraev and Samokutyaev then removed hardware from Pirs and collected samples of particulate matter on the outside of the docking compartment. Dubbed the TEST experiment, the samples will be analyzed on the ground for chemical and toxicological contaminants including microbes.

The Russian spacewalkers then translated over to the Poisk mini-research module on the space-facing side of the Russian segment. Once there, they reached a pair of rendezvous antennas no longer needed that were blocking translation paths for future spacewalks. They removed both antennas and jettisoned them from the orbital laboratory.

Finally, the cosmonauts conducted a detailed photographic survey of the exterior surface of the Russian modules.

This was Suraev’s second spacewalk of his career. His first was in January of 2010 during Expedition 22 when he spent five hours, 44 minutes outside the station setting up Poisk for future vehicle dockings. Suraev's two spacewalks total 9 hours, 22 minutes.

This was also Samokutyaev’s second spacewalk. He worked outside the station in August 2011 for six hours, 23 minutes installing science and communications gear and relocating a cargo boom during Expedition 28. Samokutyaev's two spacewalks total 10 hours, 1 minute.

The October 22, 2014, spacewalk was the 184th in support of station assembly and maintenance, according to NASA.

Soyuz TMA-13M lands successfully


Above: Soyuz TMA-13M departs the ISS on Nov. 10, 2014.

Three out of six members of the 41st expedition onboard the International Space Station, ISS, returned to Earth Sunday night, after five and half months in orbit. The touchdown of the Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft took place as scheduled on Nov. 10, 2014, at 06:58 Moscow Time (10:58 p.m. EST on November 9) at one of the routine landing areas 82 kilometers from the Kazakh town of Arkalyk, according to the Russian mission control.

Onboard the Soyuz' descent module were NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, Russian cosmonaut Maksim Suraev and German astronaut Alexander Gerst, representing the European Space Agency, ESA. The spacecraft is also carrying a family of flies, which were developing in space as part of an experiment aimed to understand influence of weightlessness on live organisms.

The return home began with the undocking of Soyuz TMA-13M from the MIM1 Rassvet module, a part of the Russian segment of the International Space Station, ISS. Physical separation between two spacecraft took place as scheduled on Nov. 10, 2014, at 03:31:30 Moscow Time (7:31 p.m. EST on November 9), a minute and a half after the undocking command. Unlike a typical departure profile, this time the ISS was not placed into a specific orientation for the undocking to save around 100 kilograms of propellant. Instead, the Soyuz performed two rather than one separation maneuvers: the first one three minutes after undocking at 03:34:30 Moscow Time and lasting eight seconds and another at 03:35:50 Moscow Time, lasting 30 seconds. It placed the spacecraft around 12 kilometers from the station at the time of the braking engine firing at 06:05 Moscow Time (10:05 p.m. EST). The maneuver reduced the spacecraft velocity by 128 meters per second, enough to push it off the orbital path and direct it back into the Earth's atmosphere.


Above: On Nov. 10, 2014, Soyuz TMA-13M reenters the Earth atmosphere shortly after splitting into a descent module, SA, carrying the crew (bottom) and expendable habitation module, BO, and instrument module, PAO.

In the anticipation of landing, around 300 members of the search and rescue team of Russia's Central Military District, TsVO, were deployed in Kazakhstan along with 14 helicopters and a pair of Antonov fixed-wing aircraft. The helicopters reached the landing site within minutes after the spacecraft's touchdown, delivering rescue personnel to the capsule.

In addition, six specially designed all-terrain vehicles were ready to rush to the touchdown point to assist with post-landing operations and to evacuate the descent module.

On the night of the landing, cold weather and cloudy skies accompanied preparations for the recovery operations.

After the departure of Soyuz TMA-13M, three crew members delivered by the Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft continued their shift onboard the station. They included Flight Engineer Barry Wilmore of NASA, Soyuz Commander Aleksandr Samokutyaev of the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, and Flight Engineer Elena Serova also representing Roskosmos. After the ISS flies for two weeks with a reduced crew of three, a fresh expedition will blast off toward the ISS from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan onboard the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft. This time, onboard will be Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Terry Virts and Italian flight engineer Samantha Cristoforetti, representing ESA.

The launch of Soyuz TMA-15M is scheduled during the night from November 23 to November 24.



Landing sequence for Soyuz TMA-13M on Nov. 10, 2014:

Time (TsUP)
Altitude, km
Latitude, deg. min
Longitude. deg, min.
Velocity, km/s
Braking engine firing starts
Braking engine firing ends
Spacecraft sections separation
Atmospheric entry
Aerodynamic control starts
Maximum G-loads
Parachute release command
Main parachute opening in case of emergency ballistic descent


Next mission: Soyuz TMA-14M


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Article by Anatoly Zak

Last update: October 31, 2020

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Crew of Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft inside the descent module. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


A Soyuz rocket with Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft shortly after its rollout to the launch pad at Site 1 in Baikonur Cosmodrome on May 26, 2014. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia


Crew of Soyuz TMA-13M around one hour before launch on May 28, 2014. Credit: RKK Energia


Soyuz TMA-13M lifts off on May 28, 2014. Credit: NASA


Soyuz TMA-13M undocks from ISS on Nov. 10, 2014. Credit: NASA

Landing site of Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft on Nov. 10, 2014, clearly shows a touchdown point (bottom) and a trail left by the descent module when it was dragged by the wind. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA




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