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Previous mission: Soyuz TM-32

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During manned missions onboard the International Space Station, a three-seat Soyuz spacecraft plays a role of a rescue vehicle for the crew of the outpost.

The onboard resources and properties of propellant loaded in the reentry capsule of the Soyuz limit safe operation of the craft in space by six months. Since at least one Soyuz has to be docked to the International Space Station constantly to provide emergency escape for the three-person resident crew, Russia committed to fly a fresh Soyuz to the ISS every six months to replace its predecessor. Missions to replace the Soyuz at the station became known as "taxi" flights.

The Soyuz TMA crew

The TMA-1 spacecraft with a "tail" number 211 became the 5th Soyuz to fly to the ISS. It was scheduled to replace the Soyuz TM-34, which arrived to the station in April 2002.

In the spring of 2001, European Space Agency, ESA, and Russian Aviation and Space Agency, Rosaviacosmos, signed a "frame" agreement on several commercial flights of European astronauts with the taxi crews to the ISS. Under this agreement, ESA astronaut Frank De Winne, from Belgium, was assigned to the Soyuz TMA-1 taxi mission to the ISS scheduled for October-November 2002. Belgian Federal Office for Scientific, Technical and Cultural Affairs (OSTC) funded the mission.

De Winne joined Russian commander Sergei Zalyotin in the Soyuz TMA-1 crew.

A singer onboard

In February 2002, reports surfaced that Lance Bass, an American pop-star and a Polish millionaire lined up to pay millions of dollars for a week trip to orbit onboard Russian spacecraft. In the meantime, a media circus was swirling around would-be space tourists, filling the press with rumors, claims and counterclaims -- a fruit of the political rivalry between the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, Rosaviacosmos, and RKK Energia, the company, which essentially runs the nation's manned space program.

A day after a representative of MirCorp, (RKK Energia's commercial partner based in Netherlands), revealed the fact that Lance Bass, a popular American singer, is considering buying a seat onboard a Russian spacecraft, a spokesman for Rosaviacosmos essentially denied the legitimacy of MirCorp's activities. Instead, official statements from Rosaviacosmos continuously endorse the projects of Space Adventures -- MirCorp's chief rival. Space Adventures took credit for recruiting Mark Shuttleworth, a South-African millionaire, who made a trip to the ISS flight in April 2002.

In the past, Rosaviacosmos' spokesman also denied the existence of plans to fly the US millionaire Dennis Tito onboard the a Russian spacecraft, as well as MirCorp's proposal to build a privately financed Mini Station.

On February 21, 2002, a Polish businessman, Leszek Czarnecki, said that the leaks about his plans to fly in space were a main obstacle for such a mission. The Polish press identified Czarnecki a few days after Rosaviacosmos revealed that that country's businessman had considered a tourist flight to the ISS onboard a Russian spacecraft.

In the summer of 2002, Lance Bass, a US singer, started his training in Star City, however, Russian sources indicated that the a prospective "space tourist" was yet to raise funds needed to finance his mission.

At the beginning of August, Russian sources said that Lance Bass failed to provide an advance payment for the mission, which made his flight in October 2002 unlikely.

As early as August 22, or two months before the launch of the Soyuz TMA spacecraft to the International Space Station scheduled for October 28, Russian space officials said that Lance Bass, a member of N'Sync band, practically lost his chance to catch the flight to the station, due to continuous delays with payments for his training.

On August 25, 2002, the crew of the Soyuz TMA spacecraft was scheduled to leave for the US for a familiarization with the US segment of the ISS, however Russian space officials refused to include Lance Bass in the group and offered him to pay for the trip to the US himself "if he wished to." The singer did join the training in Houston with the NASA permission.

Russian space officials said that a cargo container would fill the available volume onboard the Soyuz spacecraft, in case Bass was excluded from the crew.

On September 3, 2002, Russia officially discontinued the training of a popular American singer for a space flight, due to the failure of the mission organizers to meet the terms of the contract.

Despite pessimistic reports from Moscow, MirCorp, the company, which helped to arrange the deal for Lance Bass, insisted that negotiations on the conditions for the singer's flight would continue as late as September 4. "We are extremely confident that we will reach a solution for Lance's historic journey," MirCorp's statement said on Tuesday, September 3. This promise had never materialized and ten days later, MirCorp president Jeff Manber said the company would try to reschedule singer's trip to the next "taxi flight" to the ISS in April 2003.

After additional negotiations, Lance Bass reached a tentative agreement with Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, to resume his training on Monday, September 23. Russian officials stressed that a four-week training course would allow Bass receive a "cosmonaut certificate," however, at the time, the singer had no seat reserved for him on any of the Soyuz missions.

New crew assignment

To fill the vacant seat left by Lance Bass, Russian space officials appointed Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov into the Soyuz TMA-1 crew.

Launch delay

Due to the launch failure of the Soyuz rocket during the launch in Plesetsk on October 15, 2002, Russian space officials decided to postpone the launch of the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft by two days, from October 28 to October 30, 2002, to give investigators more time to establish the cause of the accident. A foreign object introduced into the propulsion system of the rocket during its production was blamed for the failure, according to the official results of the investigation. The problem was classified as unrelated to other launchers and the preparation for the Soyuz TMA-1 launch was allowed to proceed.

The launch

The Soyuz-FG rocket, carrying Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft blasted off from Site 1 at Baikonur Cosmodrome at 6:11:11 Moscow Time on October 30, 2002. Thick fog on the ground obscured the launch from the cameras, which showed only a silhouette of the rocket and the flame exhaust.

At 6:17 Moscow Time, a ground control station in Barnaul established communications with the spacecraft and nine minutes after the launch, the Soyuz TMA-1 reached the orbit.

The crew of the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft includes the commander Sergei Zalyotin, flight engineer Yuri Lonchakov and ESA astronaut Frank De Winne.

The Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft is expected to dock to the Pirs Docking Compartment of the ISS on Friday, November 1 around 8:00 Moscow Time.

The docking

The successful docking between the Soyuz TMA-1 and the ISS did take place at 8:01:20 Moscow Time on November 1, 2002. The hatches between two spacecraft were opened at 9:27 Moscow Time. The crew of the Soyuz TMA-1 was expected to spend eight days onboard the station and return to Earth onboard the Soyuz TM-34 spacecraft.

End of mission for Soyuz TMA-1

The Soyuz TMA-1 had remained docked to the ISS until May 2003. Originally, another taxi crew was expected to ride it home, however the Columbia disaster on Feb. 1, 2003 grounded the Shuttle fleet, leaving the Soyuz TMA-1 as the return vehicle for the sixth expedition of the station.

The sixth long-term crew of the International Space Station, ISS, returned safely to Earth, despite off-target landing on May 4, 2003. The reentry capsule of the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft touched down around 0207 GMT, some 460 kilometers short of its intended landing zone, NASA said.

According to the Russian mission control center in Korolev, the actual landing site was located at 49 37' N latitude and 61 20' E longitude, which is north of the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan.

Russian TV reported that search and rescue teams spotted the capsule descending normally on the parachute, however communications with the crew inside had been interrupted and search teams lost the sight of the spacecraft in the clouds.

Some two hours after landing, or at 08:21 Moscow Time on May 4, pilots of the Antonov-12 search and rescue aircraft finally discovered the capsule on the ground with its crew outside the craft and waving to the plane. Rescue teams finally arrived at the landing site with a five-hour delay, after their helicopters had to be refueled in the town of Arkalyk.

Russian mission control officials said that the off-nominal reentry trajectory increased G-forces experienced by the crew, however the acceleration remained well within acceptable limits even for the untrained person, therefore the crew had never been in danger.

The cause of the Soyuz TMA-1 deviation from the normal landing path remained unclear immediately after the landing, however even slightly wrong timing in the deorbiting burn of the spacecraft, could easily result in a considerable deviation from the assigned trajectory, while problems with the flight control system could cause the so-called "ballistic" style reentry, in which the craft is unable to use its optimal aerodynamic capabilities.

The Soyuz TMA-1 carried a number of upgrades, including a new version of the onboard computer, which were tested in flight for the first time.

Any potential problems with the landing system have to be addressed quickly in order reinsure safe operation of the Soyuz TMA-2 spacecraft, currently serving as a lifeboat for the seventh long-duration crew of the International Space Station.

Engineers found culprit in the Soyuz landing problem.

By the end of May 2003, Russian specialists investigating the cause of technical problems, which caused a steep ballistic return to Earth of the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft in May 2003, narrowed cause of the problem to a single avionics box. Officials at RKK Energia, a company, which builds the Soyuz spacecraft, said that a computer inside the spacecraft’s reentry capsule, commanded the vehicle to enter the ballistic return mode in the initial phase of the return home.

The investigation essentially exonerated the crewmembers of the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft, who were initially blamed for the problem. Hours after the landing, Yuri Semenov, the designer general of RKK Energia suggested that one of the pilots onboard “pressed the wrong button.”

Engineers are yet to determine what triggered the command, causing the reentry capsule to switch from a routine aerodynamically assisted landing profile to a steeper free-fall descent subjecting the crew to considerably higher but tolerable G-forces.

The BUSP unit had been flying onboard the Soyuz spacecraft since 1978 and during 25 years of service never displayed the problem encountered during Soyuz TMA-1 landing. Although the Soyuz spacecraft conducted several ballistic reentries in the past, all but one had been result of external factors, prompting the flight control system to abandon the aerodynamic descent.

On May 4, 2003, the Soyuz TMA-1 fired its braking engines automatically and on time, however moments after the reentry capsule separated from the habitable module and service module, the flight control system activated the ballistic reentry mode. The small attitude control thrusters onboard the capsule functioned properly, however in accordance with the computer commands, they provided attitude for ballistic reentry rather than aerodynamic mode.

Engineers believe that all data input into the landing control system during the flight was accurate, however the system somehow misinterpreted this data. As of May 22, all tests conducted on the ground failed to reproduce the phenomena encountered during the landing of the Soyuz TMA-1. Yet, engineers suspect that under very rare circumstances a complex combination of signals in the system could accumulate into a slight delay measured by fractions of seconds in the firing of the spacecraft engines and result in the switch to the ballistic reentry mode.

Engineers continue analyzing voice and data recorded during the reentry of the Soyuz TMA-1 as well as evaluating the unit, which commanded the capsule to enter the ballistic mode.

Next mission: Soyuz TMA-2

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This page is maintained by Anatoly Zak; Last update: May 5, 2012


The crew of the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft, including Lance Bass (left) Commander Sergei Zalyotin (center) and Flight Engineer Frank De Winne photographed in front of the full-size mockup of the ISS module during the familiarization training at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in August 2002. Credit: NASA

The "final" crew of the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft, including the commander Sergei Zalyotin (center), flight engineer Yuri Lonchakov (left) and ESA astronaut Frank De Winne. Credit: RKK Energia

Traditionally for the Russian manned launches, TV pictures from the reentry capsule of the Soyuz spacecraft were beamed to Earth during the launch. This time they were also available over the Internet. Credit: RKK Energia

View of the ISS through the TV camera of the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft shortly before docking on Nov. 1, 2002. Credit: RKK Energia