Russian Soyuz Spacecraft Launches for Space Station
The crew vehicle was pushed to orbit by a Soyuz-FG rocket from Pad 1 (Gagarin’s Launch Pad) at about 2:12 am local time.
The vehicle is carrying a three-member crew, NASA astronaut Mike Fossum, Russian cosmonaut and Soyuz commander Sergei Volkov and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, to the ISS.
The Soyuz TMA-02M is expected to dock at the ISS on June 10. The new space station crew members will join Expedition 28 commander Andrey Borisenko and flight engineer Alexander Samokutyaev of the Russian space agency and Ron Garan of NASA.
Since November 2, 2000, there has been an uninterrupted presence of humans on the ISS conducting expanded scientific research and station maintenance activities. Fossum and Garan will also retrieve a failed cooling system pump module that will be returned to Earth by the Atlantis’ STS-135 mission.
Borisenko, Samokutyaev and Garan launched to the ISS on April 4. They will return to Earth in September. The Expedition 29 (NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin) will then join the station in September.
Soyuz TMA-02M is a vehicle of new series, equipped with digital control system and undergoing a second stage of flight testing. The Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft was launched to the ISS in October 2010.
The TMA-01M carried NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka. The trio joined Expedition 25 crewmates Doug Wheelock, a NASA astronaut and ISS commander, NASA astronaut Shannon Walker and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, who had been aboard the station since June 17, 2010.