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The Mission




Craft: Soyuz TMA-03M
Crew: Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers
Launch: Dec. 21 @
8:16 a.m. EST
Dock: Dec. 23 @
10:22 a.m. EST
Land: July 1, 2012
Duration: 193 days

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Next trio launches on space station's 30th expedition
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: December 21, 2011


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Credit: NASA TV
 
In bitterly cold weather, a Russian Soyuz rocket carrying a three-man all-veteran crew blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday, streaking into orbit and setting off after the International Space Station to boost the lab's crew back to six.

With commander Oleg Kononenko at the controls in the ferry craft's center seat, flanked by European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers on his left and NASA flight engineer Donald Pettit to the right, the Soyuz TMA-03M's booster roared to life and climbed away from its snow-covered launching pad at 8:16:15 a.m. EST (GMT-5; 7:16:15 p.m. local time), roughly the moment Earth's rotation carried the launch site into the plane of the station's orbit.

Trailing a brilliant plume of fiery exhaust, the workhorse rocket climbed away through a clear, dark sky, arcing to the east as it accelerated toward space a little more than an hour after sunset in Baikonur. Spectators braved temperatures near zero degrees Fahrenheit to watch the rocket's ascent.

But it was comfortable inside the Soyuz and live television views from inside the spacecraft's central command module showed the crew members as they monitored the automated ascent, all three looking relaxed in their white spacesuits.

The rocket appeared to perform flawlessly and about nine minutes after launch, the Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft separated from the booster's upper stage and slipped into orbit, its solar panels and antennas unfolding as planned as it set off after the space station.

"Congratulations, guys, on a good insertion, (there are) no issues with telemetry or anything at all at this time," Russian mission control called. "We wish you best of luck. You are experienced people, I'm sure everything is going to go very well."

Kononenko plans to oversee an automated approach and docking at the station's Rassvet module at 10:22 a.m. Friday. Standing by to welcome them aboard will be Expedition 30 commander Dan Burbank, Soyuz TMA-22 commander Anton Shkaplerov and flight engineer Anatoly Ivanishin, who were launched to the outpost Nov. 13.

Burbank and his crewmates originally were scheduled for launch in September, with Kononenko, Kuipers and Pettit following at the end of November. But the Russian launch schedule was disrupted after a Progress cargo ship was destroyed during launch Aug. 24 when its third stage engine, virtually identical to the one used in the manned version of the Soyuz booster, malfunctioned and shut down before the craft reached orbit.

An investigation concluded the shutdown was triggered by contamination in a propellant line. Engineers carried out extensive inspections of downstream engines and implemented improved quality control procedures before the Russian federal space agency successfully launched another Progress supply ship Oct. 30. The Soyuz TMA-22 carrying Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin was safely launched Nov. 13.

"The Russians are good engineers, and they know how to make their hardware, they know how to fix their hardware when it doesn't work right," Pettit said in a pre-launch interview. "But all of this falls in the category of riding rockets is a risky business. If you want to be able to venture into space at this point in time, you've got to ride a rocket and if you want to participate in exploring that particular frontier you just have to roll your dice with the universe and do the best you can."

One of the highlights of the Expedition 30 crew's stay aboard the station will be the planned berthing of a commercial cargo capsule built by Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, of Hawthorne, Calif. Launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida is targeted for Feb. 7.

SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to provide 12 cargo flights to the station for delivery of more than 44,000 pounds of equipment and supplies. The contract may be expanded to cover additional flights, boosting its value to some $3.1 billion. NASA also has ordered eight space station resupply flights from Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., under a contract valued at $1.9 billion. Initial test flights are expected next year.

Three test flights were planned by SpaceX under a separate contract valued at up to $396 million. The first flight was successfully carried out last December when a Dragon capsule was lofted into orbit and guided to a successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, the first commercial spacecraft ever recovered from orbit.

The original plan called for a second test flight to demonstrate rendezvous procedures, with berthing carried out during a third and final test flight. But earlier this month, NASA agreed to let SpaceX combine the second and third test flights into a single mission.

Unlike cargo ships supplied by Russia and the European Space Agency, the commercial craft built by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences will be pulled into port by the station's robot arm. For the planned berthing in February, Burbank and Pettit will operate the station's robot arm and communications gear.

Kuipers said the advent of commercial cargo ships is the start "of a new era where we have industry, commercial companies getting into the game and into space business."

"And I think this is also the whole idea of ESA, of NASA," he said. "New things should be developed by these kind of agencies because we have to invest, it's risky, you have to find out what is possible, what's not possible. You develop a rocket, you test it and then commercial companies take over, and I think the same thing is now happening with the space station."

Here is a launch-to-docking timeline for the Soyuz TMA-03M mission (in EST; best viewed with fixed-width font):


DD...HH...MM...SS...EST...........EVENT

00...00...00...00...08:16:15 AM...LAUNCH
00...00...08...45...08:25:00 AM...Orbital Insertion
00...03...36...29...11:52:44 AM...DV-1 (93.99 mph)
00...04...28...48...12:45:03 PM...DV-2 (46.12 mph)

12/22/11

01...01...21...16...09:37:31 AM...DV-3 (4.47 mph)

12/23/11

01...23...45...49...08:02:04 AM...AR&D automated rendezvous start
02...00...03...45...08:20:00 AM...US-to-Russian attitude control handover
02...00...08...08...08:24:23 AM...AR&D DV-4/impulse 1 (34.95 mph)
02...00...28...41...08:44:56 AM...AR&D impulse 2 (2.96 mph)
02...00...32...15...08:48:30 AM...Soyuz Kurs-A activation (T1)
02...00...34...15...08:50:30 AM...SM Kurs-P activation (T1)
02...00...51...29...09:07:44 AM...Range = 62.14 miles: Soyuz VHF-2 voice link
02...00...55...31...09:11:46 AM...AR&D DV-5/impulse 3 (31.49 mph)
02...00...56...49...09:13:04 AM...Range = 49.71 miles: Valid Kurs-P range data
02...01...05...22...09:21:37 AM...Sunrise
02...01...18...29...09:34:44 AM...Range = 9.32 miles: Kurs-A & Kurs-P short test
02...01...24...09...09:40:24 AM...Range = 5.59 miles: Soyuz TV activation
02...01...34...22...09:50:37 AM...AR&D impulse 4 (13.86 mph)
02...01...35...49...09:52:04 AM...AR&D ballistic targeting point
02...01...39...02...09:55:17 AM...AR&D impulse 5 (14.29 mph)
02...01...41...50...09:58:05 AM...AR&D impulse 6 (3.53 mph)
02...01...44...35...10:00:50 AM...AR&D flyaround mode start
02...01...51...00...10:07:15 AM...AR&D stationkeeping start
02...01...55...45...10:12:00 AM...AR&D final Approach start
02...01...55...58...10:12:13 AM...Daily Orbit 3 Russian ground station AOS
02...01...59...45...10:16:00 AM...ISS inertial snap-and-hold window open
02...02...02...07...10:18:22 AM...Sunset
02...02...06...26...10:22:41 AM...DOCKING
02...02...09...45...10:26:00 AM...ISS inertial snap-and-hold window close
02...02...16...00...10:32:15 AM...Daily Orbit 3 Russian ground station LOS
02...02...26...26...10:42:41 AM...Soyuz hooks closed
02...02...37...45...10:54:00 AM...Sunrise
02...03...03...45...11:20:00 AM...Russian-to-US attitude control system handover

Spaceflight Now Plus
Additional coverage for subscribers:
VIDEO: FULL EXPERIENCE FROM LIFTOFF TO ORBIT PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: FOUR LAUNCH PAD CAMERA REPLAYS PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: CREW DEPARTS SITE 254 FOR LAUNCH PAD PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: FAMILIES CHAT WITH CREW BEFORE LAUNCH PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: CREW MEMBERS DON THEIR SOKOL SPACESUITS PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH DAY TRADITIONS AT CREW QUARTERS PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: EXPEDITION 30-31 MISSION PREVIEW PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: PETTIT, KONONENKO, KUIPERS BIOGRAPHIES PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: FINAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SOYUZ PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: SOYUZ ROCKET ROLLED TO LAUNCH PAD PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: SPOKESMAN'S REPORT FROM LAUNCH SITE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: LAUNCH VEHICLE IS HOISTED VERTICALLY PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: POST-ROLLOUT COMMENTS FROM OFFICIALS PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: CREW TOURS BAIKONUR COSMODROME PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: PRESS DAY TO SEE THE CREW UP-CLOSE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: CHECKING OUT THE SOYUZ TMA-03M CAPSULE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: CEREMONIAL ARRIVAL AT THE LAUNCH SITE PLAY | HI-DEF

VIDEO: CREW'S DEPARTURE FROM TRAINING BASE PLAY | HI-DEF
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