Thursday, June 09, 2011

Soyuz docks safely at space station

A multinational three-person crew has safely anchored at the International Space Station two days after launching from central Asia.

In a few hours, hatches will open to allow NASA astronaut Mike Fossum, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa to join three Expedition 28 crewmates already on the station.

Automated systems guided the crew's three-sectioned Russian Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft through its final 200-meter approach to the Rassvet docking port attached to the Zarya module, facing Earth.

Soyuz commander Volkov had planned to take over manual control briefly for an extended firing of one aft thruster operating at reduced capability following rendezvous burns performed Wednesday, but the manual maneuver wasn't necessary with other thrusters compensating properly.

"Contact confirmed," Volkov radioed as the Soyuz reached its port at 5:18 p.m. EDT, four minutes ahead of schedule.

"Congratulations, Sergei," said a Russian mission controller.

Fossum, making his thirds spaceflight, laughed in apparent delight at reaching the outpost he will take command of in September.

The two spacecraft were flying 218 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Awaiting the new crew's arrival and assisting from inside were American Ron Garan and Russians Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev.

Before hatches are opened, leak checks must be performed and the vestibule between the spacecraft pressurized, a process expected to take several hours.

Watch live coverage of the upcoming hatch opening and welcome ceremony starting at 7:45 p.m

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