Soyuz TMA-05M Launched Toward the International Space Station

TMA-05M Crew
Flight Engineer Sunita Williams, Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko and Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide
Image Credit: NASA

Soyuz TMA-05M launched as planned from the Baikonur Cosmodrome Saturday 14 July at 7:40 PM Phoenix time (0240 UTC 15 July).

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Japan’s Aki Hoshide and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko will join other crew members on the International Space Station (ISS).

The Soyuz TMA-05M is expected to dock with the orbiting complex on Tuesday.

Japan is expected to launch their third resupply mission at 7:18 PM Phoenix Time Friday, 20 July (0218 UTC Saturday 21 July).

TMA-05M Ignition
Ignition of the Soyuz Rocket with TMA-05M Manned Spacecraft
Image Credit: NASA TV

TMA-05M Ascent
Ascent of the Soyuz Rocket
Image Credit: NASA TV

TMA-05M Crew
Crew of TMA-05M Manned Spacecraft on Ascent
Image Credit: NASA TV

TMA-05M Schedule
Schedule for the TMA-05M Manned Spacecraft
Image Credit: NASA TV

Hubble Space Telescope Sees Ancient Galaxy Cluster and Mysterious Object

Galaxy Cluster IDCS J1426.5+3508 and Mysterious Blue Arc
Image Credit: NASA / ESA /University of Florida, Gainsville / University of Missouri-Kansas City / UC Davis

In an article in The Astrophysical Journal, astronomers report a massive galaxy cluster 10 Billion light years away, the largest known at that distance, and a bright blue arc (gravitational lense?) perhaps 13 Billion light years away. The astronomers state that for that brightness and distance “…we expect to find no arcs over the entire sky as bright”. The abstract:

The galaxy cluster IDCS J1426.5+3508 at z = 1.75 is the most massive galaxy cluster yet discovered at z > 1.4 and the first cluster at this epoch for which the Sunyaev-Zel’Dovich effect has been observed. In this paper, we report on the discovery with Hubble Space Telescope imaging of a giant arc associated with this cluster. The curvature of the arc suggests that the lensing mass is nearly coincident with the brightest cluster galaxy, and the color is consistent with the arc being a star-forming galaxy. We compare the constraint on M 200 based upon strong lensing with Sunyaev-Zel’Dovich results, finding that the two are consistent if the redshift of the arc is z ~ 3. Finally, we explore the cosmological implications of this system, considering the likelihood of the existence of a strongly lensing galaxy cluster at this epoch in a ΛCDM universe. While the existence of the cluster itself can potentially be accommodated if one considers the entire volume covered at this redshift by all current high-redshift cluster surveys, the existence of this strongly lensed galaxy greatly exacerbates the long-standing giant arc problem. For standard ΛCDM structure formation and observed background field galaxy counts this lens system should not exist. Specifically, there should be no giant arcs in the entire sky as bright in F814W as the observed arc for clusters at z ≥ 1.75, and only ~0.3 as bright in F160W as the observed arc. If we relax the redshift constraint to consider all clusters at z ≥ 1.5, the expected number of giant arcs rises to ~15 in F160W, but the number of giant arcs of this brightness in F814W remains zero. These arc statistic results are independent of the mass of IDCS J1426.5+3508. We consider possible explanations for this discrepancy.

Soyuz TMA-03M Undocks and Returns to Earth.

Soyuz TMA-03 Undocking from the Mini Research Module (MRM-1)
Image Credit: NASA TV

The Russian Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft undocked from the Mini-Research Module at the International Space Station (ISS) at 9:48 PM Saturday night, while flying above China. This brought Expedition 31 to a close and inaugurated Expedition 32 under the command of Gennady Padalka. The other two crew members on ISS are Russian Sergey Revin, and American Joe Acaba.

The deorbit burn occurred at 12:19 AM Phoenix time Sunday. Russian cosmonaut and Soyuz commander Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Don Pettit, and ESA astronaut Andre Kuipers, returned to Earth aboard the Soyuz Descent Module. The landing in Zhezkaghan took place at 1:14 AM Phoenix time (0814 UTC).

The remainder of the year is heavily booked with activity:

  • 15 July – launch (with 17 July docking) of the Soyuz TMA-05M/31S spacecraft, carrying three additional members of Expedition 32 – Russian Yuri Malenchenko, American Suni Williams, and Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide.
  • 21 July – the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle-3 (HTV-3) spacecraft will launch to the ISS, for a rendezvous and berthing to the ISS
  • 22 July – the Progress M-15M/47P spacecraft will undock from the Docking Compartment-1 (DC-1) module
  • 24 July – the Progress M-15M/47P spacecraft will perform a re-docking to the ISS to test a new Kurs-NA antenna.
  • 30 July – Progress M-15M will undock for the final time and reenter the atmosphere and burn up.
  • 1 August – Launch of Progress M-16M/48P, which will dock to the ISS just a few hours after launch to test a new fast-rendezvous profile.
  • 6 September – departure of the HTV-3 and burn up on reentry
  • 17 September – departure of Soyuz TMA-04M/30S with Gennady Padalka, Sergey Revin and Joe Acaba, marking the end of Expedition 32
  • 23 September – departure of Europe’s ATV-3 spacecraft
  • 5 October – Launch of the first Dragon flight under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract – known as SpX-1
  • 7 October – Docking of SpX-1

Soyuz TMA-22 Returns ISS Expedition 30 Crew Members

TMA-22 Descending in Kazakhstan
Image Credit: Roscosmos

On The ground
TMA-22 On the Ground in Kazakhstan
Image Credit: Roscosmos

After undocking from the International Space Station’s Poisk module at 1:38 AM Phoenix time today (8:38 UTC), Commander Dan Burbank of NASA and Russian Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov landed their Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft in Kazakhstan at 4:45 AM Phoenix time (1145 UTC). The three members of Expedition 30 spent 165 days at the ISS.

The Russian Federal Space Agency’s Oleg Kononenko is now commander of Expedition 31, supported by NASA astronaut Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers. They will be joined in May by NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin. The three will launch aboard the Soyuz TMA-04M on 14 May at 7:58 PM Phoenix time Monday (0258 UTC 15 May Tuesday). Docking is scheduled for 16 May.

TMA-02M Undocks and Returns Safely from the ISS

TMA-02M Undock
TMA-02M undocks from the ISS
Image Credit: NASA TV

TMA-02M Descent
TMA-02M fireball during descent
Image Credit: NASA TV

TMA-02M Descent
TMA-02M on Main Parachute
Image Credit: NASA TV

The modern Russian Soyuz TMA-02M undocked from the International Space Station and returned safely to Kazakhstan late yesterday evening.

From the NASA press release:

Three International Space Station crew members safely returned to Earth on Monday, wrapping up nearly six months in space during which NASA and its international partners celebrated the 11th anniversary of continuous residence and work aboard the station.

Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum, Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Sergei Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency landed their Soyuz spacecraft in frigid conditions on the central steppe of Kazakhstan at 8:26 p.m. CST Nov. 21 (8:26 a.m. Kazakhstan time, Nov. 22). The trio arrived at the station on June 9. They spent 167 days in space and 165 days on the complex. Volkov, a two-time station crew member, now has accumulated 366 days in space.

Before leaving the station, Fossum handed over command to NASA’s Dan Burbank, who leads Expedition 30. Burbank and Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov of Russia will continue research and maintenance aboard the station.

The remaining Expedition 30 crew members, NASA astronaut Don Pettit, European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers, and cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, are scheduled to launch Dec. 21 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and dock with the station on Dec. 23.

Fobos-Grunt Stranded in Earth Orbit

23 November:

A European Space Agency antenna in Australia has detected a radio signal from Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, the first contract from the Mars-bound spacecraft since it was stranded in Earth orbit two weeks ago. A brief statement on the ESA web site stated that its tracking station near Perth, Australia, detected a signal from the spacecraft at about 3:25 pm EST (2025 GMT) Tuesday. According to reports the station’s 15-meter antenna received a radio signal, but “no meaningful telemetry”.

14 November:

Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft remains stuck in low Earth orbit and ground teams have until early December to try to return it to operations before declaring the mission lost.

13 November:

Pessimism continues to surround the Russian Fobos-Grunt mission. No communication has been established as of Sunday evening.

12 November:

The latest orbital parameter comments from Ted Molczan: “USSTRATCOM has issued three new TLEs since my comments yesterday on the payload’s rate of decay. They confirm that the apparent small increase in orbital altitude is real, and apparently it is continuing.”

There are no reports that communication or control has been established with the Russian spacecraft.

11 November:

There was no success overnight establishing communication with the Russian spacecraft. Ted Molczan reports on the latest orbital parameters of the Fobos-Grunt spacecraft – slight changes in the orbit might suggest venting or maneuvering.

10 November:

From NasaSpaceFlight Forum from the Russian Space Forum: “Just a short report. [right after the launch] we’ve got telemetry from the 2nd stage of Zenit launcher, it shows normal separation. After the first loop the one and only [SC] telemetry session has been received, it showed deployment of the solar arrays, constant solar orientation and normal work of all systems. After the second loop we found the SC on the initial orbit, it was silent. No telemetry since that. Previous night at Baikonur there were failed attempts to restart the onboard computer. This attempts will be repeated this night.”

9 November:

Russian engineers apparently failed to communicate with the Fobos-Grunt spacecraft on Wednesday as it passed over the Baikonur site. Roscosmos officials have stated they have two weeks to fix the problem before the spacecraft orbit decays and reenters the atmosphere. They report that the solar panels deployed.

8 November:

The Russian mission to Phobos failed to ignite the first of two burns to send the probe on the way to Mars. The spacecraft is in safe mode, and Russian space scientists have approximately three days to re-establish communication and upload new computer instructions to resume the mission before the batteries run out.

Russian Fobos-Grunt Launch

Launch of Russian Fobos-Grunt Mars Mission
Image Credit: NasaSpaceFlight Forum

Russia successfully launched a Zenit 2SB rocket carrying the Mars Fobos-Grunt (“Phobos-Soil”) spacecraft, designed to retrieve a sample from the Martian moon Phobos and return to Earth. The launch was on time at 19:16 UTC. Twelve minutes later, the spacecraft was in orbit.

Fobos-Grunt is carrying 20 instruments. The Gas Analytic Package, or GAP, will conduct gas chromatography of the soil of Phobos, and look for organic compounds. The Manipulator Instruments Set will study the composition if the soil through spectroscopy. A large array of other spectrometers are also aboard the spacecraft, including a gamma-ray spectrometer, a neutron spectrometer, an infrared spectrometer, a laser mass spectrometer, an ionic mass spectrometer, a visible optical spectrometer and an infrared optical spectrometer. These will study different elements of the soil’s composition.

Fobos-Grunt Spacecraft
Image Credit: NasaSpaceFlight

Russian Progress Resupply to ISS Fails

Soyuz M-12M
Launch of Progress M-12M aboard Soyuz Rocket.
Image Credit: NASA TV

At 325 seconds into the flight, the third stage sensed a low tank pressure condition and shut down the rocket. The Progress M-12M spacecraft and the attached third and fourth stages crashed in the Altai region of the Russian Federation. The region has had its share of falling debris over the decades, but the explosion created by the spacecraft and unused fuel and liquid oxygen was the largest ever reported.

The failure was the first Progress lost since 1978. There have been 43 successful resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) over the past 11 years.

Nearly three tons of supplies were lost, as well as the capability that the Progress had to re-boost the orbit of the ISS. The first of which was scheduled for 31 August. There are discussions underway as to whether the Progress M-11M, which undocked just prior to the launch. could be re-docked and used for re-boost. In addition, the ISS Service Module (SM) “Zvezda” has two engines capable of performing ISS re-boosts.

ISS program manager Mike Suffredini noted that “We are in a good position logistically to withstand this loss of supplies that were going to come to ISS. In fact, I can tell you we can go several months without a resupply vehicle if that becomes necessary.”

Russia has announced the suspension of all Soyuz launches pending an investigation. Russia has lost six spacecraft in the past nine months.

Progress M-09M Resupply Launched to ISS

Russia successfully launched their Progress M-09M/41P resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) this morning (1:31 AM UTC). Docking to the ISS at the Docking Compartment-1 (DC-1) Pirs Nadir port will occur Sunday 30 January at 2:40 AM UTC. The Progress M-08M/40P, carrying a load of trash, recently vacated the port, and burned up during re-entry over the Pacific Ocean.

Yesterday, Japans's HTV-2 (Kounotori) spacecraft docked with the ISS. Next month the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch their ATV-2 (Johannes Kepler) mission to the ISS and later in February, the Space Shuttle Discovery is set for launch.

It is a busy time on the Space Station.

Ignition of the Soyuz-U / Progress M-09M Mission
Image Credit: Tsenki TV

Image Credit: Tsenki TV

Image Credit: Tsenki TV

Image Credit: Tsenki TV