Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Next space station crew set for launch

Fueling of a Russian Soyuz booster has begun in preparation for a blastoff from central Asia at 4:12 p.m. EDT today that will deliver American astronaut Mike Fossum and two crewmates to the International Space Station.

Fossum, cosmonaut Sergei Volkov and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa will soon begin suiting up at Site 254 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan before boarding their Soyuz TMA-02 spacecraft around 1:30 p.m.

The rocket will launch from the same pad from which Yuri Gagarin blasted off 50 years ago in April to become the first human in space.

The crew will double to six the number of full-time station residents, filling out the Expeditions 28 crew that next month will welcome the last shuttle to visit the orbiting science research complex. 

American Ron Garan and cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev are already on board the station, await the new crew's planned arrival at 5:22 p.m. Thursday.

Watch live launch coverage here starting at 3:30 p.m. by clicking the NASA TV box at right.

Fossum, 53, is a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and two-time shuttle flyer. His ties to NASA date to engineering support for early shuttle missions and later work on the space station's redesign in the 90s, which followed a stint as a flight test engineer at Edwards Air Force Base.

Married with four children and a new granddaughter, Fossum flew shuttle Discovery in 2006 on the second Return to Flight mission and again in 2008 on a mission that delivered Japan's Kibo lab.

Volkov, 38, is making his second spaceflight and second long-duration stay on the station, which he commanded in 2008. At that time he became the world's first second generation space traveler. Father Alexander Volkov was aboard the Mir space station with Sergei Krikalev in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Sergei Volkov is married with two sons, the youngest of which is only about six months old.

Furukawa, 47, is a former surgeon making his first spaceflight. He'll be the third Japanese astronaut to perform a long-duration mission, following Koichi Wakata and Soichi Noguchi. He's married with a son and a daughter.

Their Soyuz TMA-02 spacecraft is the second in a new series flying with upgraded guidance and navigation systems and digital data processing units.

IMAGE: At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on June 3, NASA astronaut Mike Fossum (left), Expedition 28 flight engineer; cosmonaut and Soyuz commander Sergei Volkov (center) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa posed for pictures in front of the Soyuz booster in the integration facility. Photo credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov

1 comment:

Calli Arcale said...

Minor quibble -- shouldn't it be Soyuz TMA-M02? Second in the Soyuz TMA-M series? Soyuz TMA-02 flew years ago.

Just checked RussianSpaceWeb.com; they're calling it Soyuz TMA-02M. In any case, I'm sure that M needs to be there to distinguish it from Soyuz TMA-02, which delivered Yuri Malenchenko and Ed Lu to the ISS in 2003.