Soyuz Makes Record-Breaking ‘Fast Track’ to Space Station

by Nancy Atkinson on March 29, 2013

It was same day, freaky-fast delivery for the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft bringing the crew of Expedition 35/36 to the International Space Station. The expedited flight had the crew arriving even quicker than expected, in just 5 hours and 45 minutes after launch. The new abbreviated four-orbit rendezvous with the ISS uses a modified launch and docking profile for the Russian ships. It has been tried successfully with three Progress resupply vehicles, but this is the first time it has been used on a human flight.

Screen capture from NASA TV of the Soyuz approaching the International Space Station with the Expedition 35/36 crew. Via NASA TV

Screen capture from NASA TV of the Soyuz approaching the International Space Station with the Expedition 35/36 crew. Via NASA TV


In the past, Soyuz manned capsules and Progress supply ships were launched on trajectories that required about two days, or 34 orbits, to reach the ISS. The new fast-track trajectory has the rocket launching shortly after the ISS passes overhead. Then, additional firings of the vehicle’s thrusters early in its mission expedites the time required for a Russian vehicle to reach the Station.

Liftoff of the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft took place at 4:43 p.m. EDT (20:43 UTC) on March 28 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and Russian commander Pavel Vinogradov, cosmonaut Aleksandr Misurkin and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy docked with the ISS’s Poisk module at 10:28 p.m. EDT on Thursday (March 28; 0228 GMT Friday).

Hatches will be opened shortly, and Expedition 35 commander Chris Hadfield,astronaut Tom Marshburn and cosmonaut Roman Romanenko will welcome their new crewmates aboard. Update: Here’s the video of the hatch opening:

Find out more about the “fast-track” trajectory in our earlier articles here and here.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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