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Soyuz MS-19 delivers "movie crew"
An actress Yulia Peresild and a movie director Klim Shipenko arrived at the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft on Oct. 5, 2021, for a 12-day visit to shoot scenes of a sci-fi drama. They were accompanied by a professional cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, who had to switch to manual control during the final approach to the station due to a failure of the Kurs automated rendezvous system aboard Soyuz. Shkaplerov will remain aboard the station for nearly six months.
The primary crew of the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft during training in July 2021, left to right: Yulia Peresild, Anton Shkaplerov and Klim Shipenko.
Soyuz MS-19 mission at a glance:
History of the "movie in space" project
During the early planning of the ISS flight manifest in 2014, the launch of the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft was penciled for September 13, 2021, however in the provisional schedule prepared by Roskosmos at the end of August 2020, the Soyuz MS-19 mission was slated for October 5, 2021.
At that time, the spacecraft was still expected to carry three professional cosmonauts: Anton Shkaplerov, Sergei Babkin and Mukhtar Aimakhanov, members of the 66th long-duration expedition to the ISS, however, by the end of August 2020, Sergei Korsakov replaced Aimakhanov on the crew.
Around the same time, Roskosmos and the Russian television Channel I were discussing the idea of sending an actress to the ISS with Soyuz MS-19 to shoot scenes for a sci-fi movie with the working title Vyzov (which in Russian language has a double meaning like "challenge" and "doctor's house call.") Cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, from Soyuz MS-18 crew, was expected to play a role of an ailing cosmonaut to be helped by a flight surgeon, played by an actress Yulia Peresild, who was sent from Earth on an emergency mission. The footage shot in space was expected to take between 35 and 40 minutes of screen time, according to Roskosmos. NASA confirmed that it agreed to let the Russian "movie crew" to shoot inside the Cupola module on the US Segment, however most of the filming was expected inside the Russian Segment.
Echoing the history of the Soviet space program, the "movie in space" project aimed to preempt a similar American project publicized by a Hollywood star Tom Cruise.
In October 2020, a year before the planned launch of Soyuz MS-19, Channel I promised to start casting for the project in the near future. On May 13, 2021, Roskosmos announced that actress Yulia Peresild and film director Klim Shipenko had been recommended to be assigned into the primary crew, with Alena Mordovina and Aleksei Dudin to be their backups. The four members of the visiting movie crews were scheduled to begin training in Star City on May 24, 2021, according to Roskosmos.
On May 19, Roskosmos officially confirmed all three members of the Soyuz MS-19, with Anton Shkaplerov assigned to be the Soyuz commander and a flight engineer during Expedition 66 on the ISS. Oleg Artemiev was appointed the commander of the backup crew. As is the usual practice for visits to the ISS by non-professional crew members, Peresild and Shipenko were scheduled to return after just 12 days aboard the station, taking a ride home on the Soyuz MS-18, which at the time of Soyuz MS-19's arrival would be completing its half-a-year shift in orbit, providing a lifeboat for the station's crew. In the meantime, Shkaplerov would remain aboard the ISS until 2022. On their way home, Peresild and Shipenko would be accompanied by Oleg Novitsky, the original pilot of Soyuz MS-18. However, it also meant, that Russian cosmonaut Petr Dubrov and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, Novitsky's crew mates on the way to orbit, would have to stay in orbit for an extra six-month shift.
Preparations for flight
If the August 2020 schedule worked as planned, Soyuz MS-19 would become the first crew vehicle docking to the nadir (Earth-facing) port of the UM Prichal module then scheduled to be added to the Russian Segment of the station less than a month earlier. At the time, the Soyuz MS-19 mission was expected to last 174 days and land on March 28, 2022. However, in the November 2020 draft of the ISS flight manifest, the docking destination for the Soyuz MS-19 mission was shifted to the MIM1 Rassvet module. The mission's launch date (October 5) and its docking destination on the Rassvet module was confirmed in the official ISS flight manifest approved by Roskosmos on Feb. 3, 2021.
With the start of the active launch campaign, the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft underwent autonomous tests of its Kurs-NA rendezvous radio system inside the anechoic chamber at Baikonur Cosmodrome on August 19, 2021. In the following week, tests continued with powering up of the ship's various systems, Roskosmos announced on August 25. On the same day, specialists from Yuzhny branch of the TsENKI infrastructure center completed the assembly of the first and second stages of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket for the mission at the processing complex of Site 31, according to Roskosmos.
On August 31, Roskosmos announced that the Chief Medical Commission of the Cosmonaut Training Center pronounced all the members of the Soyuz MS-19 crew and their backups as healthy for space flight.
The vacuum testing of the Soyuz MS-19 was concluded on September 10 and around the same time the primary and backup crew completed their formal training for the mission with traditional qualification exams.
On September 15, specialists in Baikonur performed testing of the ship's solar panels, exposing them to an array of electric lights. At the same time, the installation of hardware and personal equipment inside the Habitation and Descent Modules was in its final phase, Roskosmos said.
On September 18, the primary and backup crews flew from Star City to Baikonur for the final familiarization training with the flight-worthy spacecraft. In the meantime, the assembled stack of the first and second stages of the Soyuz-2-1a vehicle was moved to a work site for pneumatic tests of "B" and "G" boosters, Roskosmos announced. The next day, the crews tried their pressure safety suits and took their seats inside the flight-worthy vehicle. On the same day, the meeting of technical management cleared Soyuz MS-19 for irreversible operations, including loading of propellant and pressurized gases, which started on September 21 after the transfer of the spacecraft to the fueling station on September 20. On September 23, the spacecraft was already back at Site 254 for final processing and on September 24, it was integrated with the launch vehicle adapter, connecting it to the third stage of the launch vehicle and integrating the ship's command interface to the flight control system of the rocket.
On September 27, specialists conducted a traditional visual inspection of the spacecraft, after which it was lowered in horizontal position and rolled inside its protective fairing. The resulting payload section was then prepared for a launch readiness tests and, the final cargo items were loaded into the habitation and descent modules of the spacecraft.
On September 29, the members of the crew performed the second familiarization training session inside the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft. The vehicle was then loaded on a railway trailer and transported to the vehicle assembly building at Site 31. The integration of the spacecraft and the rocket was completed on September 30 and on the same day the State Commission overseeing the operations cleared the vehicle for the rollout to the launch pad. The rocket left the assembly building at 05:30 Moscow Time (7:30 a.m. local time) on October 1, and arrived at launch pad No. 6 at Site 31 shortly thereafter.
Soyuz MS-19 flight scenario
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, at an altitude of around 45 kilometers and a velocity of 1.75 kilometers per second, the ship's main emergency escape rocket was jettisoned, immediately followed by the separation of the four boosters of the first stage. Around 35 seconds later, as the vehicle exited the dense atmosphere at an altitude of 79 kilometers and a velocity of 2.2 kilometers per second, the payload fairing protecting the spacecraft split into two halves and fell away.
The second (core) stage of the rocket continued firing until 4.8 minutes into the flight. Moments before the second stage completed its work, the four-chamber engine of the third stage ignited, firing through the lattice structure connecting the two stages. Moments after the separation of the core booster at an altitude of 157 kilometers and a velocity of 3.8 kilometers per second, the tail section of the third stage split into three segments and separated as well.
Following an 8-minute 49-second climb to orbit, the third stage of the rocket released Soyuz MS-19 into an initial parking orbit. According to Roskosmos, the spacecraft entered a 199.84 by 242.60-kilometer orbit with an inclination 51.67 degrees and a period of 88.64 minutes.
Soyuz MS-19 docks under manual control
At the time of the Soyuz MS-19 liftoff, the ISS was 33 seconds away from passing directly over the Baikonur launch site, but by the time, the crew vehicle entered orbit, the outpost ended up around 1,200 miles and 13.3 degrees ahead of it in the orbital arc. The mutual position of the station and the crew vehicle allowed a two-orbit rendezvous profile between the two spacecraft.
At 7:51 a.m. EDT, Soyuz reached a distance of around 400 meters from the station at a closing rate of under 1.5 meters per second, when it initiated a flyaround of the station. However, at the final approach, the main and back-up subsets of the Kurs rendezvous system showed problems one after another and mission control directed Shkaplerov switch to manual control. It appeared that the equipment of the the Kurs-P passive rendezvous system aboard the Russian Segment, which had to interact with respective Kurs-A active equipment aboard Soyuz, had failed.
According to the original flight program, Soyuz MS-19 was expected to dock at the Rassvet module, MIM1, of the ISS on the day of the launch within three minutes from 15:12 Moscow Time (8:12 a.m. EDT), after three hours and 17 minutes in the autonomous flight and following milestones:
However, the switch to manual control required extra few minutes for an additional station-keeping around 45 meters from the ISS, as Anton Shkaplerov was testing hand controller and was preparing for manual docking. By that time, the vehicles went out of range of the live TV coverage. Mission control reported the physical contact between the two spacecraft at 15:22:31 Moscow Time, as they were flying north the Philippine islands. According to NASA, some communications problems during the final approach had been attributed to bad weather at the Guam ground station, which provided data relay to the ISS.
After checking the pressure in the docking port, the crew was expected to open the hatch into the ISS around 17:05 Moscow Time (10:05 a.m. EDT). The Russian mission control had the following timeline for the post-docking operations:
However around 9:40 a.m. EDT (16:40 Moscow Time), the mission control in Moscow informed the crew that the hatch opening was planned in around one hour or 35 minutes behind the original schedule. In reality, the hatch was opened at 11 a.m. EDT (18:00 Moscow Time).
Two Russian cosmonauts and a US astronaut began preparing to return to Earth from a cooperative mission aboard the International Space Station, ISS, to a whole new political reality and severely damaged relations between Russia and the West. The routine landing of the 66th long-duration expedition aboard the ISS, acquired a whole new significance when the Kremlin greatly escalated its war against Ukraine on February 24.
The invasion led to an immediate severing of ties between Russia and its international partners in most joint space projects and, behind the scene, NASA reportedly scrambled (INSIDER CONENT) to come up with backup plans to the originally scheduled landing of US astronaut Mark Vande Hei with his Russian crew mates Anton Shkaplerov and Petr Dubrov aboard the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft on March 30, 2022.
In the days and weeks following the invasion, NASA officials publicly insisted that ISS operations had continued as planned, including crew exchanges, despite some calls to end the practice. In addition to the direct involvement of the Russian military in the search and rescue operations, NASA's preparations for the upcoming landing of Soyuz MS-19 were backdropped by the exodus of foreigners from Russia, the breakdown of many transport links to the country and by the arrest of a prominent US athlete on charges of drug trafficking.
Coincidently, Soyuz MS-19 was the final Russian crew vehicle where NASA bought a seat for its cosmonaut to ensure crew rotation aboard the ISS, before a new crop of US vehicles would be fully ready for supporting permanent occupation of the American Segment. Any further flights to the ISS were expected to carry partners' crew members under a barter agreement, where no money would change hands.
The Russian mission control displayed the following timeline in preparation for undocking on March 30:
Soyuz MS-19 post-undocking maneuvers
On March 29, the ISS crew held the traditional change-of-command ceremony, which saw Anton Shkaplerov giving the symbolic key for the station to his NASA colleague Thomas Marshburn.
The hatch closure between Soyuz MS-19 and the Rassvet Module, MIM1, took place at 07:16 Moscow Time (00:16 a.m. EDT) on March 30, 2022, as the station was flying over the South Atlantic.
During the trip back to Earth, Anton Shkaplerov served as the Soyuz pilot, sitting at the central position inside the Descent Module, flanked by Petr Dubrov in the left seat and Mark Vande Hei in the right seat.
According to the mission control in Korolev the Soyuz MS-19 landing operations had the following timeline:
Soyuz MS-19 was reported undocking from the Rassvet under manual control of Anton Shkaplerov on March 30, 2022, at 10:21 Moscow Time (3:21 a.m. EDT), around a minute and a half after the undocking command. The event marked the official conclusion of Expedition 66 aboard the ISS and the start of Expedition 67.
Following the physical separation between the two spacecraft, Shkaplerov performed a 13-second burn with Soyuz thrusters to back away to a distance of around 70 meters from the ISS, where the spacecraft began a station-keeping at 10:28 Moscow Time (3:28 a.m. EDT). A minute later, the spacecraft performed a roll maneuver to match its axis with that of the ISS and allowing Dubrov to photograph the latest configuration of the Russian Segment with the recently added Nauka and Prichal modules from the vantage point of the Soyuz MS-19's Habitation Module. At 10:30 Moscow Time 3:30 a.m., the mission control in Korolev cleared Dubrov for the transfer to the Habitation Module. Dubrov was confirmed in position inside the Habitation Module four minutes later. At 10:38 Moscow Time (3:38 a.m.), Soyuz was cleared to translate toward the Prichal module for another period of photo documentation.
At 10:42 Moscow Time, Shkaplerov backed away the spacecraft to a distance of 130-230 meters from ISS for another short period of station keeping and photography.
At 11:06 Moscow Time, as Soyuz began drifting away from the station, simultaneously performing a 90-degree fly around of the ISS. In the meantime, Shkaplerov unbuckled himself and transferred to the Habitation Module in order to allow Dubrov to return to his seat in the Descent Module. Shkaplerov then also returned to his center seat, completing the operation.
Deorbiting and landing operations
After a period of the autonomous flight to a distance of around 32 kilometers from the ISS, Soyuz MS-19 oriented itself tail first around five minutes ahead of the braking engine firing, which started at 13:34:13 Moscow Time (7:34 a.m. EDT), according to the mission control in Korolev. The four-minute 39-second engine burn slowed down the vehicle by 128 meters per second, enough to leave orbit and begin reentry into the atmosphere. In the course of the engine firing, the spacecraft descended from an altitude of 433.3 kilometers to 423.9 kilometers and continued going down.
The separation of the Habitation Module, BO, and the Aggregate Compartment, PAO, from the Descent Module, SA, carrying the crew, took place at 14:02:04 Moscow Time (7:02 a.m. EDT) at an altitude of 140 kilometers. The capsule, with the cosmonauts, then hit the discernable atmosphere at an altitude of 99.5 kilometers, at 14:05 Moscow Time (7:05 a.m. EDT), while the two remaining empty compartments of the spacecraft, lacking thermal shielding, burned up in the atmosphere. The deployment of the parachute system was initiated at 14:13:36 Moscow Time (7:13 a.m. EDT) at an altitude of 10.7 kilometers.
According to the mission control in Korolev, the Descent Module went through following atmospheric reentry parameters:
The Descent Module of the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft landed 147 kilometers southeast of Zhezkazgan in Kazakhstan at 14:28:04 Moscow Time (7:28 a.m. EDT). The target landing point was at 47 degrees 20 minutes North latitude and 69 degrees 35 minutes East longitude.
At the time of landing, Russian military meteorologists predicted mostly cloudless sky with a temperature of up to +6C degrees, visibility around 8 kilometers and south-western wind with a speed of 4 meters per second and gusts up to 11 meters per second.
The landing was supported by 12 Mi-8MTV5-1 helicopters, An-12 and An-26 fixed-wing aircraft and 20 ground vehicles, including six Siniya Ptitsa amphibious vehicles. A total of 200 members of the military personnel from Russia's Central Military District were to be deployed in Kazakhstan to support search and rescue operations.
The search-and-rescue team found the Descent Module on its side after the touchdown due to strong winds at the landing site, which pulled the capsule by its parachute after landing. All three crew members were safely extracted from the vehicle before 14:55 Moscow Time (7:55 a.m. EDT). The trio was then scheduled to make a two-hour helicopter flight to the city of Karaganda, where two Russian crew members were to board a flight to Moscow, while Mark Vande Hei would be picked up by a NASA jet for a trip to Houston.
By the time of landing, Vande Hei and Dubrov will log 355 days in space and Shkaplerov 178 days during his latest of four flights.
Planned timeline for the Soyuz MS-19 landing on March 30, 2022, according to Roskosmos:**
Soyuz MS-19 crew members:
The official logo of the Soyuz MS-19 mission. Credit: Roskosmos
Soyuz MS-19 is being transported past three other transport vehicles in preparation for docking to its launch vehicle adapter on Sept. 24, 2021. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Launch vehicle with Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft leaves the assembly building on its way to the launch pad on Oct. 1, 2021. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Launch vehicle with Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft is being installed on the launch pad on Oct. 1, 2021. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Access gantry were retracted from the launch vehicle with the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft around half an hour before liftoff. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Members of the Soyuz MS-19 crew bid farewell at the base of the access gantry of the Soyuz rocket moments before boarding the spacecraft on Oct. 5, 2021. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Soyuz MS-19 lifts off on Oct. 5, 2021. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Yulia Peresild enters the Rassvet module several hours after docking of the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft with the ISS on Oct. 5, 2021. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Soyuz MS-19 undocks from ISS on March 30, 2022. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Engineering camera aboard Soyuz MS-19 shows the position of the spacecraft relative the station at 10:27 and 10:29 Moscow Time, after the roll manuever. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Soyuz MS-19 lands on March 30, 2022. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos