NASA photographer Bill Ingalls is in Russia at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, capturing the rollout of the Soyuz TMA-16 rocket today, scheduled to launch on Sept. 30 to the International Space Station. Of course the Soyuz rollout and launch is a whole different experience from the shuttle rollout, and these pictures tell the story. Additionally, this launch has a bit more “festive” feel to it: spaceflight participant Guy Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil, is part of the crew. Also on board, Soyuz Commander Max Suraev, and NASA Flight Engineer Jeff Williams are scheduled to launch at 2:14 a.m. CDT on Wednesday, Sept. 30.
Above, a Russian security officers walk along the railroad tracks as the Soyuz rocket is rolled out to the launch pad.
The Soyuz rocket being hoisted to its launch position shortly after arrival to the launch pad Monday.
Laliberte is paying some $35 million for a seat on the Soyuz and 12 days aboard the ISS. He’s likely to be the last paying private citizen to the station for the next few years. Because of the retirement of the space shuttle, the Soyuz will be the only way to get astronauts and cosmonauts to and from the ISS.
It will take the Soyuz two days to reach the ISS. Docking is scheduled for 3:36 a.m. CDT on Friday, Oct. 2. Waiting on board the orbiting laboratory are commander Gennady Padalka, NASA’s Mike Barratt and Nicole Stott, the European Space Agency’s Frank De Winne, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and the Canadian Space Agency’s Bob Thirsk. After Padalka and Barratt depart the station, De Winne will become commander of the next station mission, designated Expedition 21.
Padalka, Barratt and Laliberte will return to Earth on Saturday, Oct. 10, in the Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft currently docked to the station. Padalka and Barratt have been on the ISS since March 2009.
To see more images from the Soyuz rollout, check out NASA’s Flickr page.