Soyuz TMA-09M lifting off from Baikonur (Credits: NASA TV).
Three new crew members for International Space Station , as part of Expedition 36/37 were launched aboard Soyuz TMA-09M powered by a Soyuz FG rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome, on May 28. Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, American astronaut Karen Nyberg and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano docked at the International Space Station after a 6-hour flight.
“Time to go! Thanks for your support and best wishes, see you from Cupola!” was the last tweet sent by Luca Parmitano from Earth, at the beginning of his first flight into space.
The rocket lifted off as planned at 20:31 UTC. It was fueled at T-5 hours with liquid oxygen and RP1 and the operation was completed after 2 hours. The crew arrived on the launch pad 2.5 hours before the scheduled liftoff and entered in the Soyuz TMA-09M capsule, with Yurchikhin taking the central seat, Parmitano on the left and Nyberg on the right. The launch sequence was nominal and after approximately 9 minutes, the Soyuz spacecraft separated from the third stage of the rocket, deploying its solar arrays and the KURS docking antennas.
The Soyuz TMA-09M performed 4 main burns as part of the rendezvous maneuvers to reach the ISS using the new, faster 6-hour route. The last two rendezvous maneuvers were decided according to the actual tracking data, while the first two were planned on the ground previously. The Soyuz TMA-09M is the second manned craft to have performed a same-day docking, the first being the previous Soyuz launch that had brought Vinogradov, Misurking and Cassidy to the ISS on March 28. Prior to that, there had been three unmanned cargo launches which had experimented with this new route, one of which was the Progress 50 resupply mission launched in February.
Once in the proximity of the ISS, the spacecraft executed a series of minor burns as it prepared to align with the Rassvet module for the final approach and docking. The operations were concluded at 2:10 UTC when the Soyuz TMA-09M finally docked with ISS. At 4:14 UTC, after having secured the seal between the two crafts, the hatch was opened and Vinogradov, Misurking and Cassidy welcomed the new members of the crew onboard. The new crew will spend 6 months on ISS, returning to Earth in November.