Soyuz TMA-12 launches Expedition 17 and first South Korean

Russia’s Soyuz TMA-12 has successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday.

The Soyuz lofted Expedition 17 cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko to the International Space Station (ISS), along with South Korean engineer So-Yeon Yi – as she becomes the first person from her nation to reach space. Docking is set for Thursday.

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Expedition 17:

The trio were launched in the storied Soyuz TMA that consists of Orbital Module, a Descent Module and an Instrumentation/Propulsion Module, lofted into orbit by a three stage Soyuz-FG (11A511U-FG no. Sh15000-024).

Volkov and Kononenko are due to spend six months on the orbital outpost, which will include the arrival of space shuttle Discovery and her giant payload of the Japanese Pressurized Module.

Yi, a commerical passenger – following an agreement between the Russian Federal Space Agency and South Korea – will only be spending 10 days aboard the ISS, conducting experiments and press interviews with South Korean media on the ground.

Such is the level of attention in South Korea, president Lee Myung-bak phoned Vladimir Putin to personally thank the Russians for their cooperation on the flight of Yi.

‘I express my sincere gratitude toward the Russian government and hope that this event will serve as an opportunity to open and strengthen various channels between Seoul and Moscow,’ said the president in a conversation that was carried by state TV.

Yi now becomes the first South Korean ever to fly in space, and the second Asian woman to orbit the planet, Yi will return back to Earth with the departing duo of ISS commander Peggy Whitson and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko.

End to Expedition 16:

Marking the end of Expedition 16, controllers at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) earned praise from NASA management for their performance during a ‘hat trick’ of three shuttle flights to the ISS.

‘Many thanks to Holly Ridings and the Expedition 16 ops team. This has been an incredibly busy and productive increment with a record three shuttle flights (the Shuttle ‘Hat Trick’ as coined by Holly),’ noted NASA HQ’s 8th Floor News.

‘Additionally, with only 23 days between 1E undock and 1JA dock, the team has once again demonstrated the tenacity, mental toughness, and can do attitude that continues to represent MOD (Mission Operations Directive) well.’

Progress departs:


Meanwhile, back on the ISS, the Russian re-supply ship Progress M-63/28P was sent on its way to a destructive re-entry on Monday morning. The automated vehicle was undocked to vacate the docking port for the Soyuz TMA-12.

‘All separation burns went off nominally, and the deorbit burn followed at 7:50am for destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean,’ noted the ISS Status Report.

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‘For the undocking, ISS attitude control was handed over to Russian MCS (Motion Control System) at ~2:55am and returned to US momentum management at 5:45am, still in earth-fixed LVLH (local vertical/local horizontal).

‘During the undocking, the station was in free drift for around 9 min. Structural response data were taken by MAMS (Microgravity Acceleration Measuring System) and the external truss-mounted SDMS (Structural Dynamic Measurement System).

‘The undocking was preceded at 4:15am by a temporary shutdown of the amateur radio equipment in the FGB (Ericsson) & SM (Kenwood) to prevent radiofrequency interference with the departing Progress vehicle.]

‘After the separation, FE-1 Malenchenko took the usual NIKON D2X w/80-400mm lens photographs of the receding cargo ship’s docking assembly (from 8-40 m distance) to verify that no rubber seals are missing on the DC1 docking interface and to assess seal integrity.’

The next Progress (29P) is due to launch on May 14, with three more cargo ships, and one more Soyuz TMA, to follow before the year is out, as the ISS continues to build up towards a six crew compliment.

Full mission background is available on the live event page – linked above.

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