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U.S., Russian, Japanese Soyuz Crew Heads for ISS, Demanding Schedule



Russia's 31 mission Soyuz spacecraft lifts off with NASA's Sunita

Williams, Russia's Yuri Malenchenko and Akihiko Hoshide, of the

Japan Exploration Aerospace Agency, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Image Credit/NASA TV

U.S., Russian and Japanese astronauts face a flurry of re-supply craft and spacewalk activities in addition to a demanding research agenda, following their scheduled docking with the International Space Station early Tuesday.

Russia's 31 Soyuz mission spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Saturday at 10:40 p.m., EDT, or 8:40 a.m., local time.

“We wish you all the best,” Vladimir Popovkin, the head of the Russian Space Agency, ROSCOSMOS, radioed Malenchenko, Soyuz commander, and his U. S. and Japanese crewmates, moments before the departure.


An all veteran Soyuz crew, Sunita Williams, Yuri

Malenchenko and Akihiko Hoshide, head for a

near five month stay on the International Space

Station.  Image Credit/NASA TV 


The newcomers, trained for a four to five month stay, will be greeted as they dock by ISS Expedition 32 commander Gennady Padalka, fellow Russian Sergei Revin and NASA's Joe Acaba.  Williams, Malenchenko and Hoshide will restore the station to six crew operations, replacing U.S., Russian and European crew members who returned to Earth on July 1.

The automated docking between the Soyuz TMA-05M transport capsule and the station is scheduled for Tuesday at 12:50 a.m. EDT.

Over the next six weeks, the expanded international crew will greet, cast off and carry out engineering tests with unpiloted Japanese and Russian commercial re-supply craft. Two spacewalks, including the first NASA outing in more than a year, are planned as well for the replacement of a faulty U.S. power distribution box, the addition of orbital debris shielding and external changes to accommodate the expected arrival of Russia's Multi-Purpose Research Module in 2013..

All the while, the six-member station crew is penciled in for an average of 35 hours of research activity with more than 200 on-going multi-national science and engineering experiments focused on astronaut health, astrophysics, bio-technology, earth observations, materials science, physics, plant growth and robotics.

"After docking, the crew really hits the ground running," said Dina Contella, NASA's lead Expedition 32 flight director.

"We have pretty accomplished crew. They are ready to go," Janet Kavandi, NASA's director of flight crew operations," told NASA TV, as she and others from the agency awaited the lift off from Kazakhstan. "They know what they are up against."

Williams, 46, holds the current world's record for long duration flight by a woman, 195 days, established during a 2006-07 mission to the space station; Malenchenko, 50, has logged three previous long duration missions, two on the ISS and one on Russia's former Mir space station as well as a 12-day station assembly mission while a shuttle crew member; Hoshide, 43, participated in a 2008 14-day shuttle station assembly mission.

Japan's third HTV re-supply craft is scheduled for a July 27 docking, seven days after launching from the Tanegashima Space Center with 4.6 tons of supplies and research gear.  The HTV-3 cargo includes the station's first aquatic habitat, a space aquarium for madaka and zebra fish that will serve as subjects in a bone loss research project,.

Russia's 47 Progress, which docked in April, will depart the station on July 22 for testing of a new KURS automated rendezvous antenna. The test will take the Russian freighter to a distance of 250 miles from the station before it returns the following day. A single new antenna is designed to replace four current antennas, reducing mass and power requirements. The 47 Progress spacecraft will be jettisoned from the Pirs docking port for good on July 30.

Russia's Progress 48 is scheduled for an July lift off 31on a two day rendezvous trajectory and docking with the station.

Padalka and Malenchenko are scheduled for an Aug. 16 spacewalk to prepare the Pirs module for the new Russian lab. The activities include the transfer of a second Strela equipment crane from the Pirs docking to the Zarya module and the installation of five orbital debris shields on the Zvezda service module.

Williams and Hoshide will follow with an Aug. 30 spacewalk to replace a main bus switching unit on the station’s solar power truss. The MBSU, which sustained apparent cosmic radiation damage in late 2011, routes solar power to U. S segment station components. Controllers have been unable to communicate with the MBSU, though it has continued to carry out its power distribution functions.

The NASA and JAXA spacewalkers will also distribute power and data cables for the new Russian lab across the U. S. segments of the station.



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