Soyuz TMA-20M with crew of three launched from Baikonur yesterday at 21:26 GMT and docked safely to Poisk module on remaining over Southern Pacific Ocean International Space Station. Docking was performed after six hours of flight at 03:11 GMT, March 19, 2016.


Jeff Williams, Alexey Ovichinin and Oleg Skripochka during blessing before flight on 19th March 2016.

This launch planned as Expedition 47/48 was very special for one of the Soyuz-TMA20M crew members. Roscosmos cosmonaut, Alexey Ovichinin which was designated for mission commander, performed his first space mission. Rest of crew members was also not experienced: Oleg Skripochka, who was designated as flight engineer, had only one space flight before. Jeff Williams (NASA) who spent six hours of flight on the right side of the mission commander had three space flights to ISS before.

Tall for 49 m with mass at 305 t Soyuz-FG started to liftoff from Gagarin’s Start (launch pad 1) in Baikonur punctually at 21:26 GMT. Rocket in FG configuration is supported with four strap-on booster each fueled with RP1/LOX. Each booster is equipped with RD-107A engine which would provide 838.5 kN of thrust. At T+2’10” boosters are separating from Soyuz-FG. Main engine, RD-108A, is working and providing 792.8 kN of thrust. At T+3’00” escape tower with solid fuel motors (part of escape system) was jettisoned from Soyuz capsule. On altitude of approximately 160 km rocket performed successful separation of second stage with first stage at T+5’00”. Powerful RD-0110 engine (fueled with RP1/LOX) started to operate at T+6’00” and begun to provide thrust of 297.73 kN for second stage of Soyuz. At T+9’00” second stage stopped its engine and separated from TMA-20M. Crew members started their space flight planned for six hours.

After orbiting around Earth four times, Soyuz TMA-20M got close to International Space Station. At T+5h10’00” Soyuz was getting close to ISS for distance around 5000 m. To perform docking to Poisk module, Soyuz should enter into correct approach course – it is possible only after reaching distance of 350 m from ISS and performing flyaround maneuver. At T+5h44’00” Soyuz is performing final approach to docking port on Poisk. It is under control of onboard computer which is relying on data from sensors and navigation system. Punctually at T+5h53’00” Soyuz TMA-20M docked to Poisk and crew inside spacecraft heard noise of locking mechanism. Hatches between station and spacecraft were opened at 04:55 GMT and Jeff Williams, Alexey Ovichinin and Oleg Skripochka started their mission on ISS – they will stay in space until September. International Space Station has at the moment six crew members: Timothy Kopra (NASA, Commander), Tim Peake (ESA, Flight Engineer 1), Yuri Malenchenko(Roscosmos, Flight Engineer 2), Aleksey Ovchinin (Roscosmos, Flight Engineer 3), Oleg Skripochka (Roscosmos, Flight Engineer 4) and Jeffrey Williams (NASA, Flight Engineer 5).

On picture above: Start of Soyuz-FG, picture taken just seconds after T=00’00” on 18 March 2016.