June 14, 2010

Soyuz Rocket Readies For Launch

A Russian Soyuz booster rocket that is set to carry a three-person crew to the International Space Station (ISS) was moved Sunday to a launch pad in preparation for the launch.

The rocket will carry US astronauts Douglas Wheelock and Shannon Walker, as well as Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin.  The crew will board the ISS laboratory for about six months.

The Soyuz carrier rocket started to slowly rollout to the site in southern Kazakhstan at 7.a.m. local time on Sunday.  In accordance with local tradition, the train carrying the rocket crossed a junction and it flattened coins laid down by well wishers to keep as mementos of the mission.

The US is starting to rely on Russia's Soyuz rocket to taxi astronauts into space as the shuttle program faces its retirement at the end of this year.

Wheelock, Walker and Yurchikhin will be onboard the space station to see space shuttle Endeavour's final planned mission to the lab in November before the fleet is finally retired.

Wheelock is returning to the space station for the first time since his two-week stint on the Discovery space shuttle in late 2007, when he and his colleagues earned plaudits for repairing a power generation facility.

Final preparations can now be set into motion with the rocket in place.  The rocket is expected to blast off June 15th.

The ISS raised its orbit by 1.6 miles last week to enable optimal positions for the arriving Soyuz craft.

A Progress cargo carrier is also due to arrive at the orbiting lab later this month.


Image Caption: The Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft is rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Sunday, June 13, 2010. The launch of the Soyuz spacecraft with Expedition 24 astronauts Shannon Walker and Doug Wheelock, and Russian Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin is scheduled for 5:35 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, June 15. Image Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi


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