Friday, October 3, 2014

Super Space September, and Upcoming October Events

It has been a few weeks since my last post, but a lot has happened with the International Space Station since then. Because of that, this post will be dedicated to a review of September highlights and a list of upcoming October events.

TMA-12M crew after landing
Credit: NASA

~ September 10, 2014

At 6:01 PM Central time, three members of the expedition 40 crew departed  the space station in their Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft and landed in Kazakhstan 3.5 hours later. Aleksandr Skvortsov, Oleg Artemyev, and Steven Swanson spent a total of just over 169 days in space. The three crew members that remained ISS were Maksim Surayev, Gregory Wiseman, and Alexander Gerst. With the departure of TMA-12M, Expedition 41 officially began for the remaining crew.

Dragon V2 and CST-100
Credit: SpaceNews

September 16, 2014

NASA announces winners of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) to be Boeing's CST-100, and SpaceX's Dragon V2. CCtCap is NASA's program to help the commercial industry develop a domestic human spacecraft. Since the end of the Space Shuttle Program, the United States has relied on Russia to get crews to and from ISS.

September 21, 2014

Eleven days after the landing of TMA-12M, an uncrewed Dragon cargo capsule was launched to ISS by SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. It was captured by the crew with the space station robotic arm two days later on September 23.

Barry Wilmore, Aleksandr Samokutyayev,
and Yelana Serova - Credit: NASA

September 25, 2014

The big ISS story of the month was the launch of Soyuz TMA-14M with three fresh crew members to join the current Expedition 41 crew. The capsule launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Russia's launch complex in Kazakhstan, and carried Aleksandr Samokutyayev, Barry Wilmore, and Yelena Serova. Yelena Serova is only the fourth Russian woman to fly to space, and the first Russian woman to visit ISS.

Soyuz on ISS approch - Credit: NASA
After launch and capsule separation from the rocket, normally two solar panels deploy to power the ships computers. Unfortunately, only one of the two twin panels deployed. Since the crew was on a fast track to ISS (only 6 hours), Russian flight controllers deemed it safe to proceed to ISS. Upon docking, the vibration caused by the two ships connecting was enough to jostle the un-deployed panel to where it finally extended.

Upcoming ISS Events

  • October 7 - Wiseman and Gerst are scheduled to perform a spacewalk
  • October 8 - ISS reboost by ATV-5
  • October 15 - Another spacewalk scheduled for Wiseman and Gerst
  • October 18 - Dragon cargo ship unberthing and de-orbit
  • October 21 - Cygnus launch at 8:29 PM CDT
  • October 22 - Spacewalk by Samokutyayev and Suraev
  • October 24 - Cygnus capture and berthing to ISS
  • October 27 - Progress M-24M cargo ship undocking and de-orbit
  • October 29 - Progress M-25M launch at 2:08 AM CDT