One Year Mission on the Space Station Set for 2015

Scott Kelly
American Astronaut Scott Kelly
Image Credit: NASA

Mikhail Kornienko
Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko
Image Credit: NASA

NASA announced on Monday 26 November 2012, that American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko have been selected by NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and their international partners to conduct a 12 month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 2015.

The mission aboard the orbiting laboratory is designed to further our understanding of how the human body reacts and adapts to microgravity and other aspects of living in space. Work over the past several years have shown marked improvement in the ability for astronauts on a normal 5-6 month mission aboard the ISS to adapt to microgravity. The year long mission seeks to validate these findings.

Long duration missions to the Moon, Lagrange points, asteroids and Mars will require countermeasures to reduce risks associated with future exploration.

Kelly and Kornienko are veterans of space travel. Kelly served as a pilot on space shuttle mission STS-103 in 1999, commander on STS-118 in 2007, flight engineer on the International Space Station Expedition 25 in 2010 and commander of Expedition 26 in 2011. Kelly has logged more than 180 days in space.

Kornienko was selected as an Energia test cosmonaut candidate in 1998 and trained as an International Space Station Expedition 8 backup crew member. He served as a flight engineer on the station’s Expedition 23/24 crews in 2010 and has logged more than 176 days in space.

The two astronauts will launch aboard a Soyuz spacecraft in the Spring of 2015 and return to land in Kazakhstan in the Spring of 2016.


Dragon Delayed for Software Testing

Dragon Spacecraft Prior to Grappling by Canadarm
Image Credit: SpaceX

As of 6 February, the NASA launch schedule shows the SpaceX Dragon launch to be under review. It is currently listed after the Progress resupply mission on 20 April and before the Soyuz TMA-04M launch on 15 May 2012. Originally scheduled for launch on 30 March, the mission has been delayed due to the failure of the pressurized descent module. The failure was so severe that the module cannot be repaired. Russia has therefore decided to swap out the TMA-05M spacecraft for the 15 May launch.

The return of Soyuz TMA-22 has been delayed until at least 30 April in order to keep the station crew at six. This is to allow for continued science experiments and to handle the probable docking of the Dragon spacecraft. Additional delays in the schedule will now ripple through until the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the current delay is the result of operating software problems that surfaced during a simulation in January.

Mike Suffredini, NASA’s space station program manager, indicated that the amount of testing required to validate the fault tolerant software was too great to meet the February launch date. Between now and the launch, five simulations are scheduled:

There are a few changes being made to software that has to go through stage testing. Enhancing their tools for real-time operations is a very important thing to us and to SpaceX.

Elon Musk has stated:

Dragon is designed to be tolerant of two failures of almost anything. We need to make sure that the failover systems work correctly in all scenarios.

Progress M-14M on the way to the International Space Station

Soyuz Progress
Soyuz Progress M-14M Ignition
Image Credit: NASA TV

The Progress M-14M launched successfully at 4:06 PM Phoenix time (23:06 UTC) from the Baikonur facility in Kazakhstan. All three stages function normally. Concern centered around the third stage, which failed during the launch of M-12M in August.

The spacecraft is scheduled to dock on Friday at 5:08 PM Phoenix time (Saturday 00:08 UTC). NASA-TV will cover the docking to the Piers module beginning at 4:30 PM Phoenix time (23:30 UTC).

Progress M-14M Ready for Launch

Soyuz Progress
Soyuz Progress Resupply Mission Prepared for Launch
Image Credit: Roscosmos

Russia is preparing to launch the latest Progress resupply mission to the International Space Station. The schedule calls for the Progress M-14M to be launched tomorrow, Wednesday, 25 January at 4:06 PM Phoenix time (23:06 UTC) from the Baikonur facility in Kazakhstan.

The mission will deliver 2669 kilograms (about 5870 pounds) of supplies:

  • 933 kg of propellant
  • 50 kg of oxygen
  • 421 kg of water
  • 1265 kg of spare parts, maintenance items and experiment hardware.

NASA-TV will cover the launch beginning at 3:45 PM Phoenix time (22:45 UTC).

The spacecraft is scheduled to dock on Friday at 5:08 PM Phoenix time (Saturday 00:08 UTC). NASA-TV will cover the docking to the Piers module beginning at 4:30 PM Phoenix time (23:30 UTC).

SpaceX Slips Dragon Launch to ISS

SpaceX announced that it will slip the launch of the Dragon spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 from the original 7 February 2012 date. The specific reason for the delay was not specified, but was related to a “sense of responsibility in returning US crewed access to LEO”.

NASASpaceFlight notes that SpaceX was slipping in order to allow for due diligence “safety checks” ahead of launch.

It is expected that the slip will only be two to three weeks.

Updated 20 January:

If the delay is longer, then the ISS crew will be reduced to three (3) when Soyuz TMA-22 undocks on 16 March. Two astronauts are required to grapple and dock Dragon. TMA-04M is scheduled to arrive on 1 April, restoring the ISS crew to six (6). Most of April is clear of activity, assuming SpaceX can be ready by then.

Regular Manned Missions to ISS Resume – TMA-22

Soyuz TMA-22
Launch of Soyuz TMA-22
Image Credit: NASA TV

Soyuz TMA-22
Ascent of Soyuz TMA-22
Image Credit: NASA TV

Russia successfully launched the Soyuz TMA-22 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) this evening at 9:15 PM Phoenix time. The Soyuz TMA-22 will dock to the Poisk module of the ISS at 10:33 PM Phoenix time Tuesday night (0533 UTC Wednesday 16 November).

The TMA-22 spacecraft is the last Soyuz mission with analog instrumentation. Future missions will have digital instrumentation, and these spacecraft have already flown to ISS (e.g. TMA-01M and TMA-02M).

Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum and Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa and Sergei Volkov are currently on board the ISS, and Anton Shkaplerov, Anatoly Ivanishin and Dan Burbank are on their way to the International Space Station aboard TMA-22.

NASA astronaut and Flight Engineer Dan Burbank is making his third visit to the International Space Station. His previous two visits were both aboard space shuttle Atlantis. He helped prepare the station for its first crew during STS-106 and helped install the P3/P4 truss during STS-115.

Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin are both making their first visit to the International Space Station.

Expedition 29 will end when Fossum, Furukawa and Volkov depart aboard Soyuz TMA-02M on 21 November, and land in Kazakhstan at 7:25 PM Phoenix time on 22 November.

Dan Burbank will assume command of the space station upon the undocking of TMA-02M.