Russian spacecraft Soyuz TMA-12M blasted off successfully from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:17 p.m. ET Tuesday. The rocket is carrying three crew members, Steve Swanson of NASA, and Oleg Artemyev and Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian Federal Space Agency.
Soyuz will now reach ISS on Thursday
Soyuz was expected to dock at the International Space Station within six hours of its launch. The rocket entered its designated orbit just 10 minutes after it lifted off on Tuesday. But due to some technical glitches, Soyuz TMA-12M couldn’t complete its third thruster burn. Russian space agency Roscosmos said that the 24-second engine burn was necessary to adjust the spacecraft’s orbiting path, which didn’t take place as planned.
It delayed the docking at the ISS by two days. NASA said that the rocket will now reach its target at 11:58 p.m. GMT on Thursday. Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko said that the crew was safe and in good spirits. They have now taken their space suits off to prepare for the long flight. Before last year, Soyuz used to take two days to reach the International Space Station. It was only the fifth time the crew took the “fast-track” six-hour route to reach the station. But this time it was unsuccessful.
Experts investigating what caused the glitch in Soyuz spacecraft
Russian officials didn’t immediately pinpoint what caused the technical glitch. Quoting Vitali Lopota, the head of Russian rocket manufacturer RKK Energia, the Interfax news agency said that the spacecraft’s software the source of the problem. However, experts are exploring other possible causes.
U.S. space agency NASA said that Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev will have plenty of time to familiarize themselves with their new home. They will live and work in the space for six months. The trio will join Rick Mastracchio of the U.S., Koichi Wakata of Japan and Mikhail Tyurin of Russia, who are scheduled to return to earth in May. Skvortsov, Artemyev and Swanson will return home in September.
It’s interesting to see the U.S. and Russia working together on space programs even as tension has intensified between the two countries over Ukraine. United States has imposed severe sanctions on Russia after Vladimir Putin took control over Crimea.