Russian spaceship docks with orbiting station (Update)

Mar 29, 2013
This image provided by NASA-TV shows the view from the Soyuz capsule as it approaches the International Space Station Thursday March 28, 2013. Chris Cassidy of the United States and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin traveled six hours in the capsule before linking up with the space station's Russian Rassvet research module over the Pacific Ocean, just off Peru. It was the first time a space crew has taken such a direct route to the orbiting lab. Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin are the first crew to reach the station after only four orbits instead of the standard 50-hour flight to reach the station. (AP Photo/NASA)

A Soyuz capsule carrying three astronauts successfully docked Friday with the International Space Station, bringing the size of the crew at the orbiting lab to six.

Chris Cassidy of the United States and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin traveled six hours in the capsule before linking up with the space station's Russian Rassvet research module over the Pacific Ocean, just off Peru, at 02:28 GMT.

"It's such a beautiful sight, hard to believe my eyes," the 59-year-old Vinogradov, who had been in space in 1997 and 2006, was heard saying on NASA TV.

In this photo provided by NASA, the Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-08M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Friday, March 29, 2013. The Russian rocket is carrying Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin, Pavel Vinogradov and U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy. (AP Photo/NASA, Carla Cioffi)

The incoming crew will spend five months in space before returning to Earth.

About two hours passed before pressure equalized between the capsule and the station, allowing safe entrance.

"Hey, is anyone home?" joked Vinogradov as he floated into the station.

In this photo taken with a fisheye lens and with long time exposure the Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-08M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, early Friday, March 29, 2013. The Russian rocket carries Russian Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Pavel Vinogradov and U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin were greeted with cheers and hugs by American Tom Marshburn, Russian Roman Romanenko and Canadian Chris Hadfield, who have been at the station since December.

The astronauts then had a brief session with Mission Control outside Moscow, talking with friends and relatives.

"You're such a star! I'm really proud of you!" Misurkin's tearful mother said. The 35-year-old Russian is on his first flight into space.

The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-08M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Friday, March 29, 2013. The Russian rocket carries Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin, Pavel Vinogradov and U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy, (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Their mission began with a late-night launch from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan.

It was the first time a space crew has taken such a direct route to the orbiting lab. Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin are the first crew to reach the station after only four orbits instead of the standard 50-hour flight to reach the station.

The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-08M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Friday, March 29, 2013. The Russian rocket carries Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin, Pavel Vinogradov and U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

The new maneuver was tested successfully by three Russian Progress cargo ships, unmanned versions of the Soyuz used to ferry supplies to the space station. Russian cosmonauts have described the two-day approach maneuver in the cramped Soyuz as one of the most grueling parts of missions.

Vinogradov said at a pre-launch news conference that the shorter flight path would reduce the crew's fatigue and allow the astronauts to be in top shape for the docking.

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Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Mar 29, 2013
What's the difference otherwise? Shorter launch windows? More fuel used?

Why didn't they do it before?
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Mar 29, 2013
I could imagine that they skipped a couple of tests en route. Usually they do short burns to check if all the attitudinal rockets work precisely and do some small testing maneuvers. Then there's tests for the communication and backup communication gear as well as the docking gear.

Last thing you want is your docking vehicle smashing into the ISS because the braking jets don't fire or your comms cut out at the last second and the backup doesn't come online, etc.
bear_dressed_as_a_monkey
1.7 / 5 (12) Mar 29, 2013
...Why didn't they do it before?

According to an earlier article:
Russian space officials said the longer approach was necessary at a time when the station was in a lower orbit required for the shuttle flights. After they ended, it was raised from 350 kilometers (217 miles) to 400 kilometers (249 miles), making a quicker rendezvous possible.


http://phys.org/n...ion.html
Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Mar 30, 2013
Russian space officials said the longer approach was necessary at a time when the station was in a lower orbit


Oh, well that makes sense.

As anyone who's played KSP knows, the lower your orbit, the less time warp you're allowed to use...

But seriously, it doesn't really explain why.

Lower orbits circle around the earth faster than higher orbits, so in order to catch up you must slow down to a lower orbit, or if you want the station to catch up with you, you speed up and lift yourself to a higher orbit. When you're close enough to start the rendezvous, you disregard the orbits and burn the rockets to eliminate any speed difference, and then fly the capsule straight towards the station.

The only reason you'd need to have to crawl 40 orbits to catch up is if you're trying to keep the orbits very close to each other, but I don't see why the 350 km orbit would specifically require that. If you don't want to go below because of air drag, just go above.

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