soyuz launch

The NASA Village

Today in the NASA Village… When it’s Time to Capture a Dragon.

Meet the Systems Engineering Simulator. Upon entering the darkened dome one can forget for a moment the actual world isn’t floating overhead. This space can contain a physical Space Station mock-up cupola (like the picture below) an Orion crew station mock-up, or a multi-mission space exploration vehicle mock-up. It is a hybrid of virtual reality and physical structure. Perfect for practicing the rendezvous (approach) and capture. It is in this dome where we are trained to capture the capsules launched from Earth to station that come bearing gifts like food, clothing, and fuel.

So what’s the deal with these visiting cargo vehicles? Where in the world are they coming from and why do they all have different names?

The simple answer is that these cargo-carrying vehicles are a form of currency in the spaceflight world. Building a vehicle and loading it with materials to supply the crew is a part of the international agreement of participation. For the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) and the European Space Agency (ESA), their vehicles are the HTV (H-II Transfer Vehicle) and ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle), respectively. ESA’s ATVs have delivered cargo to the station and docked to the Russian segment using their docking system. During Expedition 16, Yuri and I monitored the first approach and docking of the ATV to ISS.  Reminds me a bit of an X wing fighter from Star wars.

Progress is a capsule provided by the Russian Space Agency (RSA).  It is launched on a Soyuz rocket, similar to the Soyuz rockets that launch the astronauts to station. A progress will commonly remain for a few months until the next Progress is about to launch. During this time docked to the station, after unloading all the valuable cargo, the capsule is filled with trash that will burn upon re-entry.

In addition, after Shuttle retirement, the US has purchased additional cargo carriers from Space X and Orbital.  The capsule called Dragon comes from Space X. It is the only capsule that returns to ground, bearing scientific return samples or critical hardware from station.  Cygnus is a capsule launched by Orbital.  

Multiple of these capsules can be mated to the station at the same time.  In the Dome, we practice for the arrival and capture, using the Canadian robotic arm, of HTV, Cygnus and Dragon.

These capsules are essential because they are the lifeline between the astronauts and the Earth. When something happens to a capsule, the crew onboard shares their supplies. However, important items like a lost spacesuit are irreplaceable.

Jeff Tuxhorn, widely known as Tux, was a Shuttle rendezvous trainer and has since become the rendezvous instructor for HTV, Cygnus and Dragon. We have the visual out the window view to illustrate the approaching vehicle (it looks big when it is coming at you!), as well as multiple camera views to monitor during the capture.

During Expedition 5 and 16, I helped install large truss elements that now hold the solar arrays.  We also maneuvered a whole module to “rearrange” our living volume (we had to wait for Shuttle departure to put it in its proper place). At that time we didn’t have any visiting cargo vehicles like these currently resupplying station. And more importantly, there was no cupola when I was last on station, but now I get to enjoy the view from here!

Do you want more stories?  Find our NASA Villagers here!

Your fave is problematic: ESA
  • ESA (European space agency… or if you’re like, fancy, in French, fancy in French, French fanciness, Agence spatiale européenne) is an organization in which multiple countries are engaged in, dedicated to exploring space
  • these hennies do things like: human space flight, launching and operation unmanned missions, Earth observation, science and telecommunication and like, other stuff, ya kno
  • unlike NASA, ESA has 22 member countries, talk about collaboration yo
    • there’s even a treaty among the countries: ESA’s purpose shall be to provide for, and to promote, for exclusively peaceful purposes, cooperation among European States in space research and technology and their space applications, with a view to their being used for scientific purposes and for operational space applications systems
    • I may or may not be tearing up a little
  • because they’re like, so nice, they let Canada play with them too, so Canada (CSA) is an associated member of the ESA
  • ESA has a couple of dope-ass launch vehicles
    • Ariane 5: (yes, that’s the most German name ever) this gurl has been in use for 20 years! she’s been super successful, after an initial failed launch, she’s been transporting satellites into space for 71 successful starts in a row!
    • Soyuz: now, I kno, when you hear Soyuz, you think Russia, but hear me out: Roscosmos and ESA have an agreement in which Russia builds parts for the Soyuz launch vehicle and it gets assembled in French Guiana. Russia gets access to a good launch site for their launches, and ESA gets access to the very safe Soyuz launcher in exchange. [insert handshaking stock photo meme here]
  • Notable ESA missions that will blast your balls off:
    • Planck spacecraft: a cosmology mission that mapped the cosmic microwave background and essentially delivered amazing evidence for the age of the universe and cosmic inflation
    • Rosetta: ESA successfully landed on a COMET for the first time ever, telling us about the composition of comets. the spacecraft traveled 9 years to get there and yet they managed to land and signals. fuckin amazing
    • Huygens: ESA successfully landed a probe on Saturns moon, Titan.  This was the first and only landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System! 
  • summary: neutral good organization, doesn’t know how to celebrate really but that’s how Europeans are, 12/10, would launch my satellite with them 

Fresh from Earth

An image shared by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet on his social media channels showing the arrival of a Soyuz spacecraft at the International Space Station.

Carrying two new members of the Expedition 51 crew, the Soyuz spacecraft launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 09:13 CEST on 20 April 2017 and docked with the Station some six hours later.

Copyright ESA/NASA


9 MINUTES TO SPACE. Soyuz launch timeline visualized + real communications.

Expedition 51 Launch to the International Space Station

The Soyuz MS-04 rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 1:13 p.m. Baikonur time carrying NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos into orbit to begin their four and a half month mission on the International Space Station.

Source: NASA

The Mir base module was launched on 20 February 1986. Large expansion modules, launched on Proton rockets, were periodically added to the station. These modules used automated docking techniques developed during the missions of Salyut 6 and 7.

Crews were launched using Soyuz rockets and capsules. Progress spacecraft, also launched on Soyuz rockets, carried food, fuel, water, and other supplies to the station.

Starting in July 1995, several American space shuttles docked with the Mir station. Seven American astronauts lived onboard the station for extended periods of time. Shannon Lucid’s six month tour was the longest American stay on the station.

Cosmonauts performed many long duration stays aboard the station. Several spent over one year on the station. Dr. Valeri Polyakov lived aboard the station for a record 438 consecutive days.

With the International Space Station under construction in the late 1990’s, Mir was abandoned. Using progress tugs, Russian controllers were able to re-enter the station over a remote area of the Pacific ocean.

Operated in orbit for over a decade, the Mir space station proved human outposts could be maintained for extended periods of time.


Expedition 50 Soyuz Launch (NHQ201611180003) by NASA HQ PHOTO
Via Flickr:
The Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Expedition 50 crewmembers NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, (Kazakh time) (Nov 17 Eastern time). Whitson, Novitskiy, and Pesquet will spend approximately six months on the orbital complex. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)


November 28, 1966 - Soyuz rocket makes its inaugural flight.

Beginning an unprecedented reign of launch service, the Soyuz rocket was introduced 50 years ago today, on November 28, 1966.

Derived from the R7 class of missiles, which launched the world’s first satellite and human into space, the Soyuz featured upgrades and modifications allowing the launch of a new, heavier, three-person vehicle in development at the time. Over 1,000 flights have been performed under the Soyuz name, and have launched payloads ranging from the namesake Soyuz spacecraft, Progress cargo freighter, smaller modules of the International Space Station, Bion bioscience missions and countless satellites.

More than a dozen subvariants of the rocket have been developed in accordance to specific payloads or newer systems, but the overall design of the rocket has remained the same. Four strap-on boosters act as the rocket’s first stage, while the core ignites further into the flight as the second stage. While a third stage provides the final push into orbit for most Soyuz flights, some variants of the rocket, such as the Fregat and Soyuz-U, use additional upper stages to place their payloads into the proper orbit.

For most of its operational life, Soyuz only launched from Russian cosmodromes at Baikonur or Plesetsk; beginning in 2012, the launcher began flights out of the Guiana Space Center in South America, operating under contract to Arianespace. 2016 saw its first flight from the new Vostochny spaceport in Eastern Russia, where the rocket will finish out its operational life.

Soyuz is currently in its final production series, and, along with the Soyuz spacecraft, will be phased out in the mid 2020s for the Federation spacecraft atop Angara.

The final four images show a Soyuz-FG launching from the Guiana Space Center, two Soyuz FG rockets launching from Baikonur, and a Soyuz 2.1-b launching from Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

NASA severs most ties With Russia, sparing Station but pushing for U.S. launches again

NASA plans to cease most work with the Russian Federal Space Agency amid growing tensions concerning the Ukrainian crisis, a spokesperson confirmed with a statement to Universe Today Wednesday evening (April 2).

While the International Space Station will still see work to “maintain safe and continuous operation”, most other NASA activities with Roscosmos will cease, the statement read. It added (citing the Obama administration) that Congress now faces a choice between fully funding human U.S. launches again in 2017, or facing years more of sending money to the Russians for Soyuz launches from Kazakhstan.

In full, this is the statement that Bob Jacobs, NASA’s deputy associate administrator of communications, sent to Universe Today (UPDATE, 8:54 p.m. EDT — this is also now available on NASA’s G+ page)

Given Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, NASA is suspending the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation. NASA and Roscosmos will, however, continue to work together to maintain safe and continuous operation of the International Space Station.

NASA is laser focused on a plan to return human spaceflight launches to American soil, and end our reliance on Russia to get into space. This has been a top priority of the Obama Administration’s for the past five years, and had our plan been fully funded, we would have returned American human spaceflight launches – and the jobs they support – back to the United States next year.

With the reduced level of funding approved by Congress, we’re now looking at launching from U.S. soil in 2017. The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It’s that simple. The Obama Administration chooses to invest in America – and we are hopeful that Congress will do the same.


Progress MS-2 launches on cargo delivery mission.

Progress MS-2/63P successfully launched to the International Space Station at 12:23pm EDT this afternoon (March 31) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. 

The Soyuz 2.1a rocket launched flawlessly, disappearing into a cloud band just a few seconds after liftoff. Roscosmos provided animation of the vehicle’s ascent to orbit along with velocity and altitude indicators.

At T+1:57, the rocket’s four strap-on boosters fall away while the core booster, or second stage, continues to fire.

2 minutes 49 seconds later, at T+4:46, the core stage is shut down while the third stage simultaneously fires in what is known as a “hot fire” staging event.

Ten seconds later, T+4:56, the third stage aft engine section and payload fairing separate, exposing the Progress spacecraft to space.

The third stage fires for over four minutes before shutting down, and spacecraft separation occurred at T+8:47.