Yesterday Roscosmos conducted successful launch of their latest manned spacecraft, Soyuz MS-03, with three astronauts from Russia, USA and France with mission to International Space Station.
Russian State Corporation Roscosmos used for the third time their upgraded version of Soyuz spacecraft in MS version (it was 132th flight of Soyuz vehicle). With three crew members from Expedition 50, it was launched on atop of Soyuz-FG rocket from launch site 1/5 “Gagarin’s Start” at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Oleg Novitskiy (Roscosmos, Flight Commander, central seat in Soyuz), Peggy Whitson (NASA and second Flight Engineer, right seat inside Soyuz) and Thomas Pesquet (ESA and first Flight Engineer, left seat in Soyuz) will spend next three months on Low Earth Orbit inside ISS, after docking to nadir Rassvet module docking port on 19th November 2016, at around 22:01 UTC. Designated orbit for this mission was 200.15 km x 244.99 km with inclination at 51.66°, just after start rocket set its trajectory to NE with assumed flight over Mongolia and China.
Fueling of Soyuz-FG started yesterday at 16:25 UTC and few hours later crew members entered Soyuz MS-03 and checked their spacesuits. Hatch was closed and sealed after leak test; fairing of the rocket covering spacecraft was also closed. At T-22′ service towers were retracted and emergency system was armed. Last test of spacesuits was finished and crew members closed helmet visors and prepared for launch. Twelve minutes before start rocket telemetry system was activated and last corrections were uploaded to rocket guidance system. Six minutes before start Commander’s control systems were activated. At T-1′ rocket was switched to internal power and two arms were retracted. Finally at 20:20 UTC rocket ignited its engines and started to raise over launch pad. At T+2’10” four liquid fueled boosters, each providing 838.5 kN of thrust with RD-107A engine, were separated. At T+3′ tower of escape system was jettisoned and launch shroud separated from the rocket. Two minutes later RD-108 (792.48 kN of thrust fueled with LOX/RG-1), propulsion of the core stage was cut off and separated. Second stage started its RD-0110 (fueled with LOX/RG-1) to insert Soyuz into designated orbit. Thrust of 297.93 kN was generated continuously until T+9′ when MS-03 separated and started its space journey planned to last 20 Eart revolutions. Vehicle deployed solar arrays and communication antennas; crew confirmed good condition after launch – Expedition 50 continues !