A Russian Soyuz launch vehicle has launched with Expedition 15 cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin (commander), flight engineer Oleg Kotov, along with American billionaire Dr. Charles Simonyi to the International Space Station. Launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan was on time at 6:31pm UTC.
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The trio will arrive at the ISS on Monday, where Simonyi will start his short stay as the latest paying space tourist – the fifth to pay around $20m for the privilege. And despite being a tourist, Simonyi is looking forward to sharing his experience with children via his website.
‘I’m really looking forward to speaking with students while I’m on the ISS,’ said Dr. Simonyi. ‘The hundreds of questions I’ve already received from children around the world on my Web site are very mature and intelligent.
‘It’s clear that today’s young people are eager to learn about space and space travel, and it is great!’
He also agreed to conduct a series of tests on behalf of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) during his 10-day stay onboard the ISS.
‘As the world’s fifth space tourist I think I have an obligation to assist with space station research and to participate in experiments on behalf of international space agencies,’ added Simonyi.
‘I look forward to supporting JAXA’s study and contributing to the development of high definition technology in space.’
Launch was approved on Friday by the Russian State Commission, which would see Simonyireturn to Earth on April 20.
‘The State Commission today approved the prime and backup crews for Soyuz TMA-10 and ISS-15,’ noted the latest ISS On Orbit status report.
‘It also gave the Go to continue the countdown of the Soyuz system for fueling and launch, after GCTC (Gagarin Cosmonaut Test Center) Director Vassiliy V. Tsibliev reported the crews’ readiness and RSC-Energia General Designer Nikolai N. Sevastianov certified the readiness of launch vehicle and spacecraft systems.’
However, when the trio arrive at the ISS, they may come across a problem with the air conditioning, which was noted last night – which could potentially make for slightly uncomfortable surroundings.
‘CKB-2 experienced an off-nominal shutdown early yesterday morning,’ added the ISS status report. ‘The redundant CKB-1 is still inoperative since its collected condensate is not flowing to the SRVK condensate water processor.
‘Russian specialists are assessing the status of both SKVs to determine a forward plan. Meanwhile, the U.S. Lab and Airlock CCAA (Common Cabin Air Assembly) units remain operating along with IMV (inter-module ventilation) for cabin humidity control.’
Other notes of interest involve the two cosmonauts riding on the Soyuz, with Yurchikhin making his debut flight on the Russian vehicle, after previously flying on the shuttle, along with Kotov – who is making his rookie flight.