The first craft in Russia’s upgraded fleet of Soyuz spaceships reached the International Space Station tonight, delivering a trio of U.S., Russian and Japanese spacefliers for their four-month tour of duty.
NASA’s Kate Rubins, Russia’s Anatoly Ivanishin and Japan’s Takuya Onishi lifted off two days earlier from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Soyuz trips to the station typically take only six hours, but Russian mission planners passed up the express route this time to give the crew more time to check out the systems on the upgraded Soyuz MS model.
Compared with past models of the Soyuz, going back almost 50 years, the MS boasts more efficient solar panels; a lighter, faster computer system; more shielding against space debris; and improvements in the docking and navigational systems.
The systems checked out just fine during orbital tests, and tonight’s docking proceeded smoothly over the South Pacific at 9:06 p.m. PT today. “A textbook arrival for the brand-new Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft,” NASA commentator Rob Navias said.