Date of launch of upgraded Soyuz spacecraft in MS version with members of Expedition 48-49 is getting close. Launch is set for 7th July 2016 at 01:36 GMT from famous launch site 1 “Gagarin’s start” at Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Members of Expedition 48-49 Kate Rubins (NASA, flight engineer with Peggy Whitson as a backup), Anatoly Ivanishin (Roscosmos, commander with Oleg Novitsky as a backup) and Takuya Onishi (JAXA, flight engineer with Thomas Pesquet from ESA as a backup) are after press conference, last before planned launch. Their rocket was already rolled out from assembly facility and delivered to launch pad 5 on rail platform. Today state commission will announce results of astronauts training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. After its acceptance, preparing of the launch will enter into its last phase. As far as the current condition of “hero of the day”, new Soyuz-MS spacecraft, on June 30 final testing of the assembled vehicle was finished. Next, it was covered with protective fairing of Soyuz-FG, where it would wait until crew members will enter inside already today at late evening hours. Code name for mission planned for 129 days is MS-01 and its destination point is zenith docking port of ISS Rassvet module. Rassvet module was launched and attached to nadir port of Zarya module on 2010 and serves with its free second docking port for Soyuz and Progress spacecrafts along with playing role of cargo compartment. Autonomous docking controlled by Kurs-NA docking system is planned on 9th July, 2016, at 04:12 GMT.


On picture above: Kate Rubins, Anatoly Ivanishin, Takuya Onishi.

Soyuz-MS mission was postponed at the beginning of June due the potential problems with spinning of spacecraft after docking. Problems were caused by software issue with flight control unit modified along with other systems during designing MS version. Originally, launch was planned for June 24, 2016 with scheduled date of return to Earth on November 2016.

Soyuz-MS will start its solo mission after separating from second core stage of Soyuz-FG after nine minutes of flight on altitude of 200 km on orbit with inclination of 51.67°.  During passing 34 Earth orbits, Soyuz-MS will gradually increase its altitude to reach orbit of ISS which has perigee at 401.65 km and apogee at 420.81 km. Next rendez vous and docking will be performed automatically. Of course in spite of fact, that berthing is performed by Kurs-NA system, Russian commander Anatoly Ivanishin will be able to stop procedure and switch spacecraft into manual mode if necessary.

Soyuz-MS and Soyuz-FG have something common in their origin-both are modified versions of famous predecessors. MS version is upgraded Soyuz-TMA-M spacecraft. It is probably last generation of Soyuz before entering to service “Federation” spacecraft. This is maiden flight of Soyuz-MS and also test for RCC Energia abilities of constant improving Soyuz up to limits of the original project. MS version is equipped in solar arrays with improved efficiency; docking system Kurs-NA is lighter and uses less power than Kurs-A used on TMA- M version. MS version was also equipped in MBITS telemetry system which is able to send telemetry data via relay Luch satellites and modified avionics. Landing capsule was equipped in GLONASS/GPS and Cospas-Sarsat navigation and rescue systems. Additional equipment which is worth mentioning is digital video transmission system and flight parameters, voice communication and biological crew parameters recorder. Soyuz-MS in ready to flight configuration weighs 7220 kg.

Soyuz-FG is slightly modified Soyuz-U (with R-7 ICBM as predecessor) designed and manufactured by TsSKB-Progress in Samara. Rocket is long for 49 m (comparing to 51 m of Soyuz-U) and its diameter at core is 2.95 m. First stage of the core is surrounded with symmetrically installed boosters long for 19 m and conical in shape. Each booster is equipped with one RD-107A engine providing 838.5 kN of thrust burning LOX/RG-1 propellant. Core stage is equipped in RD-108A engine which provides 792.5 kN of thrust and is fueled with LOX/RG-1. Both engines are equipped in four nozzles and additional nozzles for stabilizing. RD-107A has two and RD-108A is equipped in four stabilizing nozzles. First core stage is long for 27 m; second stage is significantly shorter with only 6 m length. It is also slightly narrower with diameter at 2.66 m. It is equipped with single RD-110 engine which gives thrust at 297 kN.