At 3:43 PM CST today, (2:43AM Friday local) a Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft is scheduled to blast off from the Baikonur space launch facility in Kazakhstan on what will be a record-breaking flight. For the first time ever, the crew aboard the craft will be making a fast ascent which will put the Soyuz in position to dock with ISS only six hours after liftoff. Normal transit time is two days.
Given the extremely cramped quarters aboard the Soyuz, the fast ascent rendezvous has got to come as a welcome relief to today’s crew. It will be interesting to note if this becomes the standard model of getting to the station, and whether or not it will be adopted by NASA for its industry partners if and when the Commercial Crew program comes to fruition. Under the new scenario, a trip from the launch pad to the space station will now take approximately the same time as a transatlantic flight from the U.S. East Coast to Europe, and all without going through DHS, Customs or Baggage. A minor step perhaps, but a still a noteworthy moment on the journey to making space travel more routine.
NASA Media Advisory:
MEDIA ADVISORY : M13-052 New Space Station Crew Members to Launch and Dock the Same Day HOUSTON — Three new crew members are set to launch to the International Space Station on a six-hour flight to travel from the launch pad to their destination.
Chris Cassidy of NASA, along with Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), are scheduled to launch in their Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:43 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 28, (2:43 a.m. March 29 Baikonur time). Live coverage on NASA Television begins at 2:30 p.m.
Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin will become the first station crew members to make an expedited trip to the orbiting laboratory. Instead of taking the standard two days to rendezvous and dock with the station, they will need only four orbits of Earth to reach the station. This flight will employ rendezvous techniques used recently with three unpiloted Russian Progress cargo spacecraft.
The crew will dock with the station’s Poisk module at 9:32 p.m., with NASA TV coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m. Hatches are scheduled to open between the Soyuz and station at 11:10 p.m., with NASA TV coverage beginning at 10:30 p.m.
Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin will join Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency, Tom Marshburn of NASA and Roman Romanenko of Roscosmos, who have been aboard the outpost since December 2012.