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Soyuz MS-08 mission to ISS
In the first manned launch of 2018, the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft delivered three members of Expeditions 55 and 56 to the International Space Station, ISS. Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 21, 2018, for a five-month shift aboard the orbiting outpost.
Members of the Soyuz MS-08 crew during suiting up operations on March 21, 2018, (front row - primary crew): Ricky Arnold, Oleg Artemyev, Drew Feustel; (back row - backup crew): Aleksei Ovchinin, Nick Heig.
Soyuz MS-08 mission at a glance:
Preparations for launch
As of 2014, the launch of Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft was scheduled for March 30, 2017, but by October 1 of the same year, the mission was shifted to March 10, 2018. On December 29, 2017, Roskosmos announced that the launch of Soyuz MS-08 was set for March 15, 2018, however, by the middle of January 2018, the mission was rescheduled for March 21.
On Feb. 15, Roskosmos team completed electric tests of the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft in Baikonur and placed the spacecraft into the 17T523M vacuum chamber for tests, which were expected to last several days.
On March 4, the primary and backup crews of the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft arrived in Baikonur and the next day they conducted familiarization training in the flight-worthy vehicle undergoing processing at Site 254.
The cosmonauts and astronauts tried on their Sokol-KV spacesuits, and after their leak tests, they took seats inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft, Roskosmos said. The crews checked the communications equipment and a laser range finder, reviewed their onboard documentation, a list of deliverable cargo and the flight program.
According to Roskosmos, the primary and backup crews were also scheduled to practice manual rendezvous maneuvers, learn the operation of the new Rassvet-3BM communications system and receive instructions on the use of safety equipment and emergency operations. A special attention will be paid to the Ekon-M experiment, which involves environmental monitoring of Earth's regions, Roskosmos said.
Also on March 5, managers responsible for the pre-flight processing of the Soyuz MS-08 held a meeting which approved the fueling of the spacecraft with propellant components and pressurized gases. The fueling operations began on March 6 and the next day, the fueled spacecraft was returned to Site 254 and installed in vertical position inside its access rig for further processing.
On March 12, 2018, specialists from RKK Energia integrated the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft with its launch vehicle adapter ring which will serve as an interface with the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle.
On March 14, RKK Energia specialists conducted the final visual inspection of Soyuz MS-08, after which the spacecraft was rolled inside the payload firing which will protect it during the ascent through the atmosphere following its launch on March 21.
On March 16, members of the primary and backup crews conducted their final inspection of the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft in launch configuration, one more time familiarizing themselves with the ship's flight controls and checking various systems, RKK Energia said. The cosmonauts and astronauts also had an opportunity to inspect the Progress MS-09 cargo ship undergoing preparations for launch on July 10, 2018.
On the same day, after the inspection by the crew, the payload section with the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft was lowered into horizontal position, loaded on a railway platform and transported from Site 254 to Site 112 for integration with the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle.
On March 17, the payload section with the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft was integrated with the third stage of the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle and with the Emergency Escape System, SAS. The entire upper composite was then loaded onto the mobile transporter-erector and connected to the second stage of the Soyuz-FG rocket.
Upon the completion of the assembly, the technical management and the State Commission overseeing the testing of manned space complexes met to review the readiness of the Soyuz FG launch vehicle. The officials gave green light to the rollout of the rocket to the launch pad No. 5 at Site 1 on March 19, 2018, which took place in the early hours of the day, in line with on old tradition. After the installation of the rocket on the pad and lifting of the access gantry, the rest of March 19 was to be spent on technical work at the launch facility, general tests and the review of the telemetry, Roskosmos said.
The State Commission met again on March 20 to formally approve the crew members for the mission, followed by the traditional press-conference of the primary and backup crews. The final deliverable cargo was expected to be loaded aboard Soyuz MS-08 on the day of the launch on March 21, 2018.
A Soyuz-FG launch vehicle with the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft rolls out to the launch pad on March 19, 2018, with defunct launch facilities of the Energia-Buran system at Site 110 visible on the background.
A Soyuz-FG launch vehicle with the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft lifts off on March 21, 2018.
Propelled by the simultaneous thrust of the four engines of the first stage and the single engine of the second stage, the rocket headed east to align its ascent trajectory with an orbital plane inclined 51.6 degrees toward the Equator. Slightly less than two minutes into the flight, the ship's emergency escape system was jettisoned, immediately followed by the separation of the four boosters of the first stage. Almost exactly 40 seconds later, the payload fairing protecting the spacecraft in the dense atmosphere split into two halves and fell away.
The second (core) stage of the booster continued firing until 4.8 minutes into the flight. Moments before the second stage completed its firing, the four-chamber engine of the third stage ignited, firing through a lattice structure connecting the two boosters. Moments after the separation of the core booster, the tail section of the third stage split into three segments and fell away.
The third stage continued firing until the command to cut off its engines 8.7 minutes into the flight and its separation from the spacecraft at 20:53 Moscow Time (1:53 p.m. EDT).
According to the mission control in Korolev, the separation of the Soyuz MS-08 from the third stage of the launch vehicle took place into an orbit with the following parameters:
Without any additional maneuvers, the spacecraft was guaranteed to remain in its initial orbit for around 20 revolutions around the Earth during the next 30 hours, before reentering the Earth's atmosphere due to air friction.
Rendezvous and docking of Soyuz MS-08 at ISS
Upon reaching its planned orbit, Soyuz MS-08 was 246.5 degrees away and below the ISS, which at the time was circling the planet in the 404.41 by 421.6-kilometer orbit with an inclination 51.66 degrees toward the Equator.
The mission was designed to follow a two-day (54-hour, 34-orbit) rendezvous profile with the station. According to the Russian mission control in Korolev, on March 22, 2018, the Soyuz was scheduled to perform two orbital maneuvers during the 3rd and 4th orbit, followed by the third orbit correction during the 17th orbit of the flight, which would bring the spacecraft into the vicinity of the station, according to the following planned timeline:
Following its orbit corrections, Soyuz MS-08 was scheduled to begin an autonomous rendezvous with the ISS around 20:18:08 Moscow Time on March 23, 2018, aiming to lock sensors of its Kurs-NA rendezvous system onto the station during the 34th orbit of the mission.
The final maneuvers, including a flyaround of the ISS, a short station-keeping period and berthing were scheduled to commence at 22:18:03 Moscow Time on March 23, 2018.
The final approach was expected to culminate with an automated docking at the MIM2/Poisk module on the Russian segment of the station on March 23, 2018, at 22:41 Moscow Time (3:41 p.m. EDT). The actual docking took place just a minute earlier at 22:40 Moscow Time (3:40 p.m. EDT).
The hatches between the spacecraft and the station were scheduled to open around two hours after docking, following the routine leak checks in the docking interface. Aboard the station, three members of the Soyuz MS-08 crew will join Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai, who launched on Dec. 17, 2017, on the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft.
On August 15, 2018, Expedition 56 Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev (from Soyuz MS-08 crew, wearing red-stripped spacesuit) and Sergei Prokopyev (from Soyuz MS-09 crew, wearing a spacesuit with blue strips) were scheduled to exit the Pirs Docking Compartment, SO1, of the ISS at 11:58 a.m. EDT, for an approximately 6-hour, 50-minute excursion on the exterior of the station's Russian Segment.
The list of the primary tasks for the cosmonauts included launching four small satellites from the SO1's ladder structure, the video documentation of the station, the installation of the Icarus antenna for tracking small animals and migration of birds on the main diameter of the Zvezda Service Module, SM, and the retrieval of space exposure samples No. 15, 16, 17 and 18 in the Test experiment from the SO1 and and MIM2 modules. Time allowed, the space walkers would perform "get ahead" tasks, including the removal and jettison of the Obstanovka experiment from the large diameter of the Service Module and and additional video documentation.
The actual opening of the hatch, (officially marking the beginning of Russian spacewalks) took place at 12:17 p.m. EDT (19:17 Moscow Time), according to NASA. Artemyev re-entered the airlock at 7:43 p.m. EDT followed by Prokopyev at 7:57 p.m. EDT and the hatch was closed at 8:03 p.m. EDT (03:03 a.m. Moscow Time on August 16), logging seven hours and 46 minutes in open space, after falling around 1.5 hours behind schedule.
During the spacewalk, the duo manually launched four small spacecraft, including scientific and educational nano-satellites SiriusSat-1 and SiriusSat-2. They were developed at the Sputniks company based in Skolkovo, Russia, for the nation's Sirius educational center in Sochi. Both satellites were delivered to the station aboard the Progress MS-09 cargo ship in July 2018. Two other launched nano-satellites were Tanyusha-YuZGU-3 and Tanyusha-YuZGU-4 built within the Radioskaf experiment for the Southwestern State University in the city of Kursk, Russia.
The cosmonauts also successfully deployed the Icarus antenna. However due to extra time required for the primary tasks, cosmonauts were to retrieve only two out of four containers in the Test experiment installed on the SO1 module. A trip to the MIM2 module to remove two other containers was canceled. The jettisoning of the Obstanovka hardware was also postponed for later spacewalks. In the course of the spacewalk, the cosmonauts also had to use small napkins to remove some contamination from their gloves. The napkins were then ejected against the direction of the flight to avoid their contact with the station before their reentry into the atmosphere.
This 45th Russian spacewalk aboard the ISS was also the 212th excursion outside the the station overall, the third in Artemyev’s career and the first for Prokopyev. It was also the 7th spacewalk conducted on ISS in 2018 and 2nd Russian spacewalk of the year.
In preparation for landing, the six-member crew on the Earth-orbiting outpost conducted a traditional change of command ceremony on Oct. 3, 2018, when a US astronaut Andrew Feustel handed over the formal control over the station to a European astronaut Alexander Gerst.
A Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, NASA astronauts Andrew Feustel and Ricky Arnold boarded their Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft and closed hatches between the crew vehicle and the MIM2 Poisk module, a part of the Russian Segment of the ISS, on Oct. 4, 2018, between 1:04 and 1:06 a.m. EDT (08:04 - 08:06 Moscow Time).
According to Roskosmos, the undocking of the spacecraft from Poisk was scheduled at 10:57:30 Moscow Time (3:57 a.m. EDT) on Oct. 4, 2018, exactly 1.5 minutes after a separation command. The departure of the Soyuz MS-08 officially marked the beginning of Expedition 57 aboard the ISS.
After less than three hours in solo flight, the Soyuz MS-08 fired its SKD engine for four minutes 39 seconds from 13:51 to 13:56 Moscow Time (6:51 - 6:56 a.m. EDT) to initiate the deorbiting process. Around 12 minutes before the engine firing, the crew reported a "loose" seat liner in Rick Arnold's seat, but was apparently able to re-engage it before the maneuver.
Around 22 minutes later, at 14:19:01 Moscow Time (7:19 a.m. EDT), the Descent Module of Soyuz MS-08 carrying the crew separated from the Habitation Module, BO, and the Instrument Compartment, PAO, before hitting dense atmosphere less than three minutes later at 14:21:55 Moscow Time (7:21 a.m. EDT). In another minute and a half, at 14:23:28 Moscow Time (7:23 a.m. EDT), the crew capsule began aerodynamic maneuvering to reach the planned landing zone. The crew experienced maximum deceleration loads of 3.9 g five minutes later, at 14:28:31 Moscow Time (7:28 a.m. EDT), followed by the command to release the main parachute system at 14:30:23 Moscow Time (7:30 a.m. EDT).
The Descent Module, SA, of the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft touched down 146 kilometers southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan close to a projected time of 14:45:23 Moscow Time (7:45 a.m. EDT) on Oct. 4, 2018.
The capsule ended up on its side after the touchdown, but search and rescue personnel reached the vehicle within minutes and successfully extracted the crew.
The search and rescue operations in the landing area were supported by the personnel of Russia's Central Military District, TsVO. On September 29, 10 Mil-8 transport helicopters from Uprun air field in Southern Urals were deployed in Kazakhstan. Also, Antonov-12 transport planes carried four amphibious vehicles to the landing zone and two of those vehicles then drove to the main landing site, according to the TASS news agency. The search and rescue assets supporting the landing of Soyuz MS-08 include a total of 12 Mil-8 helicopters, three Antonov-12 and one Antonov-26 fixed-wing aircraft, 20 ground vehicle, including six amphibious vehicles and around 180 members of personnel. On October 4, four PEM-1 and PEM-2 Blue Bird amphibious search and recovery vehicles were deployed at the planned landing site of the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft, TASS said.
According to NASA, after landing, the crew members were to make a two-hour ride by helicopter to the recovery staging city of Karaganda, Kazakhstan, where they were to go their separate ways. Feustel and Arnold were to board a NASA plane and flew back to Houston, while Artemyev was to return to his home in Star City, Russia.
With the departure of Soyuz MS-08, the ISS was occupied by three astronauts from the Soyuz MS-09 crew, including ESA's Alexander Gerst, NASA’s Serena Aunon-Chancellor, and Roscosmos’ Sergey Prokopyev. Expedition 57 was to grow to five people with the arrival of the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft scheduled for launch on Oct. 11, 2018, with Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague onboard.
Soyuz MS-08 crews:
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Soyuz MS-08 is loaded into a vacuum chamber for tests on Feb. 15, 2018.
Soyuz MS-08 is being prepared for fueling on March 6, 2018.
Soyuz MS-08 returns to its processing building on March 7, 2018, after fueling operations.
Soyuz MS-08 is being integrated with its launch vehicle adapter on March 12, 2018.
Soyuz MS-08 is being lowered into horizontal position for integration with its payload fairing on March 14, 2018.
Soyuz MS-08 is transported to the vehicle processing building on March 16, 2018.
Soyuz-FG rocket with Soyuz mS-08 is installed on the launch pad on March 19, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA
Crew board Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft on the launch pad on March 21, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA
Soyuz MS-08 shortly before liftoff on March 21, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA
Soyuz MS-08 lifts off on March 21, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA
A cosmonaut launches a nano-satellite during a spacewalk on Aug. 15, 2018. Credit: NASA
Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev conduct spacewalk on Aug. 15, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: ESA
Cosmonauts deploy the antenna for the Icarus experiment during a spacewalk on Aug. 15, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: ESA