Officials Ready Soyuz Spacecraft For Wednesday Launch
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Expedition 34 crew members aboard the International Space Station are busy preparing for the arrival of three new members that will join them later this week. The Soyuz spacecraft that will take the new crew to the orbiting lab was placed on the launch pad, along with a towering rocket, at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday as Russian space officials make final preparations for the launch.
The craft was rolled out of its hangar at 7 a.m. (local time) and was slowly pulled into position on the launch pad two hours later as colleagues, friends and relatives of the astronauts watched in the subzero temperatures.
Russian space officials said although the region is currently experiencing glacial conditions, with temperatures hovering around -22 degrees F (colder with wind chills), the launch will still go on as planned, noting that the extreme cold has no effect on the Soyuz.
“There are very few requirements or restrictions for the launch of the Soyuz vehicle,” said veteran NASA astronaut Mike Fossum. “We launch a couple of days from now in similar conditions and we are without any concerns.”
NASA’s Tom Marshburn, Russia’s Roman Romanenko, and Canada’s Chris Hadfield will blast off Wednesday morning and travel for two days before reaching and docking with the ISS. They will join the Expedition 34 crew, consisting of Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin.
Marshburn, Romanenko and Hadfield, who have been in Baikonur for nearly two weeks now making final preparations for launch, were given a tour of the hangar on Sunday before the Soyuz made its parade to the launch pad.
“Incredibly impressive to see the final assembly of the rocket that will throw us into orbit. This is one excited crew!” Marshburn wrote on his Twitter account.
This will be Marshburn’s second trip into space. During his last trip, in 2009, he logged 376+ hours in space, including 19 hours of extravehicular activity over three spacewalks.
Wednesday morning’s launch will have some historical significance; It will take place on the launch pad known as Gagarin’s Start, where Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin made the inaugural manned launched, making him the first man to make an orbital space flight in 1961. Previous missions were launched at a primary site at the launch facility.
In light of the arrival of the new Soyuz crew, Commander Ford was busy unpacking equipment brought to the station aboard the ISS Progress 49 cargo vessel and also loaded trash and waste into the Progress 48 craft for disposal. He also spent part of the afternoon doing routine cleaning and maintenance on the Crew Quarters.
Flight Engineers Novitskiy and Tarelkin were busy themselves performing various tasks. Novitskiy worked on the Coulomb Crystal Experiment, while Tarelkin maintained the Elektron System.
Coverage for Wednesday’s launch will begin 6 a.m. and will be shown on NASA TV.