The Russian Soyuz spacecraft successfully docked at the International Space Station on Thursday, two days after it suffered technical lags that prevented a fast track linkup after launching on Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The spacecraft was carrying two cosmonauts and one NASA astronaut.
Commander Alexander Skvortsov controlled the automated approach as the docking mechanism engaged its counterpart at the upper Poisk module. Together, the two spacecraft flew over Southern Brazil at height of 252 miles.
Oleg Ostapenko, director of the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos, congratulated the crew for successfully completing the first part of its mission.
After locking the Soyuz spacecraft in place, Skvortsov, along with NASA astronaut Steven Swanson and flight engineer Oleg Artemyev were greeted by Expedition 39 commander Koichi Wakata, Mikhail Tyurin and Rick Mastracchio.
The three-man crew joined the Expedition 39 team for a post-docking radio chat with the space agency, family, and friends who were at a Russian flight control center in Moscow. Their families sent their congratulations, with Swanson’s father joking that they “took the scenic route there.”
The technical hitch happened after the crew ran into problems firing a required rendezvous rocket. The first two rendezvous firings went on schedule, but the third one failed because it was not in the “expected altitude or orientation.”
In May, Wakata and his team are scheduled to return to Earth, leaving Skvortsov to be the commander of Expedition 40. They are scheduled to return to Earth on September 11.
This back and forth sequence between expeditions is used to keep the space station healthy, and to keep it sufficiently supplied and staffed with rotating crews from different countries. NASA generates electricity and provides communication satellites, while Russian Soyuz spacecraft send US and partner astronauts to space. However, NASA hopes to have its own spacecraft capable of sending its astronauts to space by 2017.
Understanding Soyuz Undocking And Reentry
Soyuz Launches Into Space
Image via Wikimedia Commons