Russian Spacecraft Docks at International Space Station

By Bill Gasperini

MOSCOW (VOA) — A Soyuz spacecraft carrying Russian, American and Italian crew-members has docked at International Space Station. The mission comes as part of the normal six-month crew rotation.

Russian space officials say the docking took place on schedule two days after the Soyuz blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

American astronaut John Phillips, Russian Sergei Krikalyov and Italian Roberto Vittori later opened the hatch and made their way into the orbiting space complex.

There they joined Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov and American astronaut Leroy Chiao, who’ve been on the space station for the past six months.

All five men soon appeared in a live television hook-up with mission control back on earth.

Mr. Sharipov welcomed the new men on board and said that all was ready for the transfer of crews on the station.

Mr. Phillips and Mr. Krikalyov are to spend the next six months on board.

One of their main tasks will be to welcome the return of an American space shuttle to the station for the first time in two years.

The shuttle Discovery is due to dock with the space station next month after a two-year break due to the disintegration of the shuttle Columbia, which killed all seven astronauts on board.

The new crewmen on the station will conduct a photographic survey of Discovery as it moves in for docking.

This will help determine if extensive work on the shuttle’s exterior insulation system has been successful.

It was a failure of that system that caused Columbia to break apart in the intense heat generated when it reentered earth’s atmosphere.

Italian Roberto Vittori is with the European space agency. He is due to conduct a series of experiments over the next eight days before returning to earth in the Soyuz capsule with Mr. Sharipov and Mr. Chiao.

The Soyuz craft have served as the only link with the station since all shuttles were grounded after the Columbia accident.

Articles Related the Russian Spacecraft Soyuz and the ISS:

** ESA Astronaut for ISS, July
** New ISS Crew Leaves Soyuz
** Soyuz Spaceship Flying to ISS
** Soyuz-6TMA Crew to Bring Picture to ISS
** Soyuz Russia Celebrating Cosmonautics Day
** Rockets to Be Launched from South America

ESA Astronaut for ISS, July

MISSION CONTROL CENTER, KOROLEV, MOSCOW REGION (RIA Novosti) — The European Space Agency and Roskosmos, Russia’s Federal Space Agency, are quite soon to sign a contract for an ESA astronaut’s long sojourn at the International Space Station, Daniel Sacotte, in charge of ESA manned flights, said to Novosti in Korolev near Moscow.

The ESA is eager to sign the contract as soon as possible for Germany’s Thomas Reiter to get to the ISS, he added.

A Russian expert team is flying to Western Europe tomorrow to work out contract details, and Roskosmos shares the ESA’s eagerness to get through with it quickly, said Nikolai Moiseyev, agency deputy chief.

Reiter is expected to reach the ISS by the USA’s Atlantis shuttle, to be launched next July. The ESA man will join the 11th station crew of Russia’s Sergei Krikalev and American John Phillips. Both came to the ISS this morning.

Another shuttle, the Discovery, is due to go to the ISS some day in between May 15 and June 3, said Fred Gregory, NASA deputy chief. Launching preparations are proceeding on schedule, and there is enough time to get sure the shuttle is quite safe, he added.

New ISS Crew Leaves Soyuz

MILLION CONTROL CENTER, KOROLEV, MOSCOW REGION (RIA Novosti) – An 11th ISS crew left its Soyuz TMA-6 craft, 8.46, Moscow time, this morning to get to the International Space Station. The USA’s John Phillips was the first to enter, followed by Roberto Vittori, Italian astronaut of the European State Agency visiting crew. Captain Sergei Krikalev, Russia, broke an established tradition to enter last.

The Soyuz automatically docked the ISS, 6.20, Moscow time.

Russia’s Salizhan Sharipov, 10th ISS crew captain, met the new crew with bread and salt neatly arranged on a tray-an age-old Russian folk tradition, which became space custom at the times of the Mir orbital station. At the beginning, astronauts were stitching up a loaf to cloth that came as an impromptu napkin, with a salt tablet attached, a Mission Control Center officer said to Novosti.

The 11th crew will be taking over up to April 24. The men are in for busy days, what with station documents to hand over and experiments to finish. The 10th crew will take the test finds to Earth on their way back by the Soyuz. There is a lot of packing and other chores, too, said our informant.

Soyuz Spaceship Flying to ISS

MISSION CONTROL CENTRE (Korolev) (RIA Novosti) – A Soyuz booster rocket with the Soyuz TMA-6 spaceship, in which the crew of the 11th Russian-US expedition is flying to the ISS, successfully took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome at 4.46 Moscow time. At 4.55 Moscow time the Soyuz TMA-6 separated from the booster rocket and entered an orbit of rendezvous with the ISS.

"The crewmen feel well, communication with them is maintained stably, and the ship’s systems are working normally after the separation from the launch vehicle. Crew commander Sergei Krikalev reported about the advent of weightlessness," a representative of the Mission Control Centre said.

Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev heads the mission. For a half-year American astronaut John Phillips who turned 54 on the day of his takeoff to the ISS will be his subordinate. Russian record holder in the number of space flights – it is already his sixth space flight now – Sergei Krikalev will, however, mark his birthday in space for the first time – he must turn 47 on August 27, 2005.

Astronaut of the ESA visiting expedition Roberto Vittori of Italy has also left for his second ten-day flight on the ISS. He must return to Earth on April 24 together with the crew of the tenth expedition – Salizhan Sharipov and Leroy Chiao, who worked on the ISS for half a year.

It is planned that their spacecraft Soyuz TMA-5 will undock from the ISS at night on April 24, and the descent capsule with the spacemen is expected to land on Kazakhstan’s territory at 02.03 Moscow time.

So, alongside the change of the crew, the space ships on the ISS will also change, which must be done once in six months according to the safety engineering rules.

On the ISS the Russian Soyuzs act as "rescue boats" – people can be evacuated from the station only in them in case of depressurization, a fire or any other serious abnormal situation.

On Sunday, April 17, the Soyuz TMA-6 spaceship must tether to the ISS. Speaking of the most interesting tasks he has to accomplish in the course of his six-month-long work on the ISS, Sergei Krikalev said that of greatest interest is to measure the Soyuz ship’s trajectory by means of satellite navigation instruments.

According to him, this is very important for improving the system of rendezvous and docking, designed not only for the European Jules Verne cargo ship but also for spacecraft of the future, which will tether to the ISS.

Flight engineer of the 11th expedition to the ISS John Phillips believes that it is very important to install and test the equipment which the Discovery space shuttle, the first after the Columbia disaster, must bring to the ISS. According to Mr. Phillips, the shuttle will bring, in particular, a big refrigerator, a gas analyzer and a scientific centrifuge.

Soyuz-6TMA Crew to Bring Picture to ISS

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) — The international crew of the Soyuz-6TMA spacecraft – Sergei Krikalyov, Roberto Vittori and John Philips – are to blast off taking the picture Single Mona Lisa 1:1 by known Russian artist Georgy Puzenkov with them.

The news was announced by a spokeswoman of the European Space Agency (ESA) participating in the project along with Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Energiya corporation.

The Soyuz-6TMA is slated to blast off towards the International Space Station (ISS) from the Baikonur launching facility on April 15. In addition to the cargo under the program, the crewmembers take along a picture by artist Georgy Puzenkov whose works are displayed in top museums throughout the world. Based on the famous picture by Leonardo da Vinci, Puzenkov recreated Mona Lisa in the form of computer pixels applied to canvas by means of up-to-date technology.

Puzenkov termed his unprecedented space action with a historical date: Leonardo da Vinci’s painting – a symbol and a legend of the world’s art – turns 500 this year. According to Puzenkov, Mona Lisa’s smile in a computer frame is a token of the creative unity of art, science and high technology.

In addition to the painting to be brought on board by the Italian crewmember, Roberto Vittori, one more piece of art is to go to outer space. Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalyov will bring to the Soyuz-6TMA a transparent crystal with a titanium-silicon plate measuring 3 micron by 5 micron. The plate will be Single Mona Lisa 1:1’s nano-copy from a Russian nano-technology developer.

The crystal is to be left on board the ISS, with the painting to be brought back to the Earth on April 25.

Soyuz Russia Celebrating Cosmonautics Day

MOSCOW/SARATOV (RIA Novosti) — Federal Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov is to congratulate the International Space Station’s crew on Cosmonautics Day, without leaving for the mission-control center outside Moscow. Nor will Perminov have to leave the Federal Space Agency building in Moscow for this purpose. In short, Perminov will congratulate the ISS crew from a special central information center.

"On April 12 the Federal Space Agency’s chief will chat with the ISS crew (namely, Salizhan Sharipov and Leroy Chiao) from a new central information center that was established April 5 at the Federal Space Agency," RIA Novosti learned from the agency’s spokesperson here.

In his words, the versatile central information center receives data from all enterprises of the space-rocket industry. This center makes it possible to hold direct communications sessions with ISS crews. Previously, such sessions could only take place from the mission-control center near Moscow.

Perminov first talked to Sharipov and Chiao April 5. "I will now be able to chat with you more often because we have established permanent communications with the ISS from the Federal Space Agency’s building," Perminov said back then.

Meanwhile Russian cosmonauts, members of the so-called Star Squad, will gather in an impressive setting near Ternovka village in the Saratov region (middle reaches of the Volga river), reports the regional information and public-relations ministry. The world’s first space traveler Yury Gagarin had landed there exactly 44 years ago.

The Saratov region is to receive Russian pilot-cosmonaut, Hero of the Russian Federation and Honorary Citizen of Engels Yury Shargin, Heroes of the Soviet Union Gennady Sarafanov and Igor Volk, members of the Russian Cosmonautics Academy named after Tsiolkovsky and the Russian Academy of Sciences, as well as Gagarin’s companions and aerospace-industry specialists.

All these people will attend a festive rally, laying flowers at a monument to the first cosmonaut in history. They will also meet students of the Saratov industrial and teacher-training college where Gagarin had studied.

Rockets to Be Launched from South America

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) — On April 11, Russia’s Federal Space Agency and Arianespace of France signed a contract on building a launch facility for Russia’s Soyuz-ST launch vehicles at the Kourou space center (French Guiana), Gazeta reports.

The first Soyuz rocket is to be launched from Kourou in 2008, Vyacheslav Davidenko, a spokesman for the Federal Space Agency, said.

The Federal Space Agency’s officials are sure that Kourou launches will help Russia save money. As Kourou is close to the Equator, each Soyuz launcher will be able to orbit four-ton payloads rather than the 1.5-ton payloads that the launch vehicles currently take to space from Baikonur. This means up to $60 million will be saved per launch.

Federal Industry Agency chief Boris Alyoshin believes that Soyuz launches will provide Russian companies with contracts worth a billion euros in the next five to six years. Arianespace has already received the first communications-satellite launch contract, a Federal Space Agency source added.

However, experts are skeptical about the Federal Space Agency’s plans. Russia will obviously profit from Kourou launches to some extent. However, Igor Afanasyev, an expert on space technology, said communications satellites are now becoming heavier and more dependable and most telecommunications agencies already operate such satellites. Afanasyev believes that there are no guarantees that Russia will be able to make three or four launches a year.

Experts are sure that manned launches cannot be transferred from Baikonur to Kourou in the next few years, as the latter does not have the required high-safety infrastructure for manned space flights. In January 2004, Vladimir Putin and President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev signed an agreement on extending the lease on Baikonur until 2050. Russia will have to pay $115 million each year even if it launches some commercial spacecraft from Kourou, and military satellites from Plesetsk in northern Russia.