Russian Soyuz MS-02 manned spacecraft was successfully launched today from Baikonur Cosmodrome on atop of Soyuz-FG rocket. Three members of Expedition 49-50 are already in space on their way to International Space Station.

MS-02 had not easy launch campaign. After number of problems with spacecraft detected during assembling Soyuz MS-02 with Soyuz-FG rocket, everything seemed to be against second from latest series of Russian manned spacecrafts. There was a time in the beginning of September, that even Russian media, known from more than friendly approach to national space program, reported, that MS-02 could possibly be launch even in the end of November. Luckily, Russian specialists managed to fix all problems with connectors and cables inside Soyuz, and crew members could arrive to Baikonur to prepare for launch postponed for almost one month.  Expedition 49 crew members, commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos along with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough arrived to Baikonur for the second time on October 7, 2016, and started to prepare for their mission. In the meantime, Soyuz MS-02 was again tested and encapsulated on October 11 and it was moved to assembling facility on October 13.  Finally Soyuz-FG with MS-02 on atop was rolled out three days later to launch site 31/6.


On picture above: Sergey Ryzhikov (first space flight), Shane Kimbrough (second space flight) and Andrey Borisenko (second space flight) – members of Expedition 50.

131st launch of Soyuz rocket performed today had one objective: delivering Soyuz MS-02 into 230 km x 189 km orbit with inclination at 51.6°. Hour of start was set to 08:05 GMT; already at T-30″ security systems were armed and crew members took their places inside Soyuz and performed last leak checks of their Sokol space suits (Sergei Ryzhikov took his place in the center with Andrey Borisenko on his left side and Shane Kimbrough on his right side). After last tests if onboard systems at T-10″ crew members closed visor of helmets and prepared for start. At 08:03 GMT last service arm was retracted and punctually at 08:05 GMT Soyuz-FG started; after 40 seconds, rocket reached speed of 900 km/h. At T+2’10” four liquid fueled boosters were jettisoned after reaching speed of over 6000 km/h. At T+2’44” fairing was jettisoned and Soyuz-MS was exposed. At T+3’ beam of launch escape system was jettisoned. At T+5′ rocket performed “Hot Stage” – core stage was ignited before moment of separation of the first stage. First stage was released successfully and upper stage started last phase of the flight. At T+9′ Soyuz MS-02 separated from upper stage of Soyuz-FG and started its space journey to dock to Poisk module of International Space Station at 09:59 GMT on Friday 21st October.

Soyuz-FG was designed and is manufactured by TsSKB-Progress in Samara, Russia. It had its maiden flight in 2001, and since 2002 it remains main launch vehicle for Russian Federal Space Agency to launch manned Soyuz TMA and MS spacecrafts. At the moment rocket has still 100% success ratio. Soyuz-FG is long for 49.5 m, with mass of 305000 kg. It is able to lift 6900 kg of payload. First stage with one liquid fueled RD-108A engine (thrust at 792.48 kN) is supported by four liquid fueled boosters with one RD-107 engine each. Second stage is powered by one RD-0110 engine with thrust at 297.93 kN. Boosters, first stage of the core and second stage are fueled with RP-1/LOX propellant. Only Fregat upper stage (not utilized during manned missions) is fueled with N2O4/UDMH.