Three-person crew set for launch into space today
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: June 15, 2010
Engineers are readying a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for launch Tuesday to ferry two NASA astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut to the International Space Station, boosting the lab's crew from three to six.
Including manned and unmanned missions, this will be the 100th launch supporting space station operations since assembly began in 1998.
Walker, a private pilot and wife of shuttle astronaut Andrew Thomas, was trained to serve as Soyuz flight engineer, assisting Yurchikhin in critical phases of flight.
"Only a handful of us have been trained as the co-pilots on the Soyuz, and it's quite an extensive training process," Walker said in a NASA interview. "I've spent the better part of the last three years over in Russia working with my Russian colleagues and my Russian instructors to learn how to be the co-pilot, so it's quite an endeavor."
A member of the Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots, Walker is taking a watch into space that was worn by Amelia Earhart during a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. In a NASA news release, Walker said she hoped that by honoring the legendary flier "people will become interested in the continuing story of women in aviation, and perhaps draw some new pilots to the field."
If all goes well, Yurchikhin and Walker will oversee an automated approach to the International Space Station, docking at the Zvezda command module's aft port around 6:25 p.m. Thursday.
After leak checks, hatches will be opened and Yurchikhin, Walker and Wheelock will be welcomed aboard by Expedition 24 commander Alexander Skvortsov, Mikhail Kornieinko and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, who were launched to the station April 2. This will be the first time a long-duration station crew has included two women.
Yurchikhin, Walker and Wheelock, who plan to spend 164 days aboard the lab complex, are replacing Expedition 23 commander Oleg Kotov, Timothy Creamer and Soichi Noguchi, who returned to Earth two weeks ago aboard the Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft after five-and-a-half months in space.
The new additions, in turn, will form the core of the Expedition 25 crew when Skvortsov, Kornienko and Caldwell Dyson depart in late September.
"Our increment is going to be pretty busy," said Wheelock, who will command Expedition 25. "We'll see a fairly long gap for the next shuttle flight to arrive, and so we have a fair amount of EVAs, or spacewalks, we'll be doing as well. We have three Russian EVAs. Fyodor and our Russian colleagues will go outside and be doing some configuration on the outside of the Russian segment and we'll also have two U.S. EVAs in August to do the very same thing, to outfit the station to be a little more independent of the heavy lift capability that the shuttle was bringing to the station."
Only two more shuttle flights currently are planned, one with Discovery and one with Endeavour. Discovery is officially targeted for launch Sept. 16, but the flight is expected to slip to around Oct. 29 because of payload issues. Endeavour currently is targeted for launch in late November, but that flight is expected to slip to February because of payload and launch conflict issues.
NASA managers are lobbying the Obama administration for permission to fly one additional mission with Atlantis next June to deliver critical equipment and supplies. A decision is expected around the end of the month.
"It's actually bitter sweet to see the shuttle go," Wheelock said. "But it's really an exciting time as well, because we're also going to be the first increment to really go to full utilization of the space station as an orbiting laboratory.
"All of our international partners, we've pulled together and done things in the engineering world that only 10 years ago seemed to be impossible. Did we think we'd get to this point sooner? Yes. Did we think we'd get to this point cheaper? Yes. ... We had big dreams and visions. I think that now we're just getting to that point where we're going to begin to really see the return on investment for us."
Looking beyond space station, Bill Gerstenmaier, director of space operations for NASA, told the crew to give some thought to how the station might be used to help pave the way for future missions into deep space.
"I'd like to congratulate the crew on being ready and completing their training," Gerstenmaier told the astronauts in a pre-flight meeting. "That's a tremendous accomplishment. The teams in Houston, Canada and Japan are all ready to support your efforts. Have a good time on station, we look forward to your activities and work.
"And I have a special request for you, to think about how station can be used for exploration activities, can be a stepping stone to things beyond. So in addition to your normal tasks and things to which you were trained, think about how station can be used for the future and as a stepping stone to new and bigger things."
Here is an updated timeline of the Soyuz TMA-19 countdown through docking with the International Space Station (in EDT; best viewed with fixed-width font):
DATE/EDT......EVENT 06/15/10 11:35 AM......Batteries installed in booster 12:05 PM......State commission 'go' 12:20 PM......Crew arrives at site 254 12:35 PM......Tanking begins 01:15 PM......Spacesuit donning 01:35 PM......Booster is loaded with liquid oxygen 01:55 PM......Crew meets delegations 02:25 PM......Reports to the state commission 02:30 PM......Transfer to launch pad 02:35 PM......1st/2nd stage oxygen fueling complete 03:00 PM......Crew arrives at launch vehicle 03:05 PM......Crew ingress 03:35 PM......Crew in re-entry vehicle 03:50 PM......Re-entry vehicle hardware tested; suits are ventilated 04:05 PM......Hatch sealed and tested 04:35 PM......Launch vehicle control system preps; gyro activation 04:50 PM......Launch pad service structure halves lowered 04:55 PM......Suit leak checks; re-entry vehicle testing complete 05:05 PM......Emergency escape system armed 05:10 PM......Service towers retracted 05:20 PM......Suit leak checks complete; escape system to auto 05:25 PM......Gyros uncaged; on-board recorders activated 05:28 PM......Prelaunch operations complete 05:29 PM......Final launch countdown operations to auto 05:29 PM......Launch complex and vehicle systems ready 05:30 PM......CDR's controls activated; helmets closed; launch key inserted 05:32:04 PM...Combustion chamber nitrogen purge 05:32:49 PM...Booster propellant tank pressurization begins 05:33:04 PM...Ground propellant feed terminated 05:34:19 PM...Vehicle to internal; 1st umbilical tower sep; auto sequence start 05:34:39 PM...Ground power umbilical to 3rd stage separates 05:34:59 PM...Launch command given; central/side pod engines on 05:35:04 PM...Second umbilical tower separates 05:35:09 PM...Engine turbopumps at flight speed 05:35:14 PM...Engines at maximum thrust 05:35:19 PM...Launch 05:44:04 PM...Orbital Insertion 09:32:31 PM...DV1 (33.1 mph) 10:04:32 PM...DV2 (18 mph) 06/16/10 06:06:51 PM...DV3 (4.5 mph) 06/17/10 03:00:00 PM...US to Russian attitude control handover 03:17:00 PM...ISS maneuvers to docking attitude 04:06:09 PM...AR&D Automated Rendezvous start 04:28:13 PM...AR&D DV4/Impulse 1 (49.7 mph) 04:51:17 PM...AR&D Impulse 2 (3.2 mph) 04:52:30 PM...Soyuz Kurs-A activation 04:54:30 PM...SM Kurs-P activation 05:12:09 PM...Range = 62 miles: Soyuz VHF-2 link 05:12:37 PM...AR&D DV5/Impulse 3 (57.3 mph) 05:16:39 PM...Daily Orbit 1 Russian ground station acquisition of signal 05:16:49 PM...Range = 49.7 miles: Valid Kurs-P range data 05:20:50 PM...Sunrise 05:37:49 PM...Range = 9.3 miles: Kurs-A & Kurs-P short test 05:39:31 PM...Daily Orbit 1 Russian ground station loss of signal 05:45:09 PM...Range = 5 miles: Soyuz TV activation 05:53:13 PM...AR&D Impulse 4 (14.6 mph) 05:56:09 PM...AR&D Ballistic Targeting Point 05:58:10 PM...AR&D Impulse 5 (15.2 mph) 06:00:54 PM...AR&D Impulse 6 (3.8 mph) 06:02:52 PM...AR&D Flyaround mode start 06:08:19 PM...AR&D Stationkeeping start 06:16:00 PM...AR&D Final Approach start 06:18:00 PM...ISS inertial snap-and-hold window open 06:20:40 PM...Sunset 06:25:00 PM...Docking 06:25:00 PM...ISS inertial snap-and-hold window close 06:45:00 PM...Soyuz hooks closed: ISS maneuvers to LVLH 06:49:43 PM...Daily Orbit 2 RGS AOS 06:52:25 PM...Sunrise 07:13:00 PM...Daily Orbit 2 RGS LOS 07:45:00 PM...Russian to US attitude control handover