BAIKONUR COSMODROME, September 15 The Soyuz-2.1a rocket will launch on Friday from Baikonur and will send the Soyuz MS-24 manned spacecraft to the International Space Station with two Russians and an American, the press service of Roscosmos told reporters.
According to the materials of the state corporation, the launch is expected at 18.44 Moscow time, and the docking of the spacecraft with the station at 21.56 Moscow time.
The main crew of the ship included Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub, as well as US astronaut Loral O'Hara. For the commander of the Russian cosmonaut corps, Kononenko, this will be the fifth flight; Chub and O'Hara are flying into space for the first time.
There are only two people in the backup crew – Russian Alexey Ovchinin and American Tracy Dyson. Ovchinin doubles for both Kononenko and Chuba, because a month ago the main medical commission did not allow another backup, Oleg Platonov, to continue training.
THE PLACE WILL BE FOUND
Initially, Kononenko, Chub and O'Hara were supposed to fly to the ISS on March 16 on the Soyuz MS-23. They had to be transferred to another ship due to a malfunction of the Soyuz MS-22 thermal control system, which occurred on December 15, 2022 due to a micrometeoroid entering its radiator.
Experts came to the conclusion that the crew (which includes Russian cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev, Dmitry Petelin and American astronaut Frank Rubio) cannot be returned on a faulty ship, because the temperature in it during descent can quickly reach 60-70 degrees.
To replace the Soyuz MS-22, on February 24, 2023, the Soyuz MS-23 was sent with cargo instead of the next crew. In order for the ship to fully exhaust its service life in orbit, the expedition of Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio was extended; they became the first crew to stay on the ISS for more than a year.
It is expected that Kononenko and Chub will also spend a year at the station. In March 2024, the Soyuz MS-25 spacecraft will depart for the ISS; Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, Belarusian cosmonaut Marina Vasilevskaya and American Tracy Dyson will arrive at the station on it. Novitsky and Vasilevskaya will spend a short time in orbit and return to Earth on Soyuz MS-24 with O'Hare, while Chub and Kononenko will remain and return on Soyuz MS-25 in the fall of 2024 with Dyson.
Thus, Kononenko, who has already completed four flights with a total duration of more than 736 days, will, based on the results of the new expedition, become the first person in the world to spend more than a thousand days in space. By the end of the expedition, which is expected to last 192 days, his total time in orbit will be 1111 days.
However, Kononenko himself has repeatedly said that he flies to work, and not to set records, and space is not sports arena to organize such competitions there.
QUAIL, CRYSTALS AND SOLAR SAILS
As Kononenko previously said in an interview, during the flight his crew will conduct experiments on growing fullerene crystals in an electric vacuum furnace, and an experiment with quail eggs. The eggs will be recorded at various stages of embryonic development and then returned to Earth for further study. The astronauts will also conduct research aimed at creating a monitoring system that will find cracks and other leaks in the station body.
During spacewalks, Kononenko and Chub will install equipment outside the station to create deployable structures from polymer composite materials with a shape memory effect. As part of another experiment, they will test space corrosion of the station's external surfaces.
It is assumed that Kononenko and Chub will go into outer space four times. During one of them, the cosmonauts will attach a launcher for student nanosatellites to the Multifunctional Laboratory Module (MLM) “Science”. The device was developed by students, graduate students and teachers of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University. The first device to be launched with its help will be the Parus-MSTU satellite.
This device was delivered to the ISS by the Progress MS-23 truck in May. The satellite is equipped with a solar sail, which, due to the rotation of the device, can be extended to different lengths. The sail is bombarded with charged particles from the sun to create thrust, which can be used to change the satellite's orbit. The thrust is adjusted by changing the length of the sail. It is planned that cosmonauts will monitor its opening while working in outer space.
The first exit of Kononenko and Chub will be carried out in October-November 2023, three more in 2024.
MIXED UP IS MORE RELIABLE
The launch of Soyuz MS-24 will be the fifth cross-flight under an agreement previously concluded between Roscosmos and NASA. It assumes that the crew of each Russian spacecraft sends one American astronaut to the ISS, and the crew of each American spacecraft includes one Russian cosmonaut. This is necessary so that in the event of unforeseen changes in the flight program, neither the Russian nor the American segments of the station are left empty.
The first such ship was the Soyuz MS-22 with Frank Rubio in the crew. A couple of weeks later, Russian Anna Kikina went to the ISS on the American Crew Dragon. In March 2023, Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrei Fedyaev arrived on the Crew Dragon (Crew-6 mission) to the ISS; he has now returned to Earth, replaced by Konstantin Borisov (in the crew of the Crew-7 mission).
Initially, the agreement provided for three flights of Russian and American ships, but was later expanded to one mission. In the first half of 2024, around the same time as the flight of the Soyuz MS-25 with Dyson in the crew, Russian Alexander Grebenkin will fly on Crew Dragon. In addition, due to the replacement of the Soyuz MS-22 with the Soyuz MS-23, the flight of Rubio was extended, which, thus, will work on two expeditions at the station, and not one.
Additional ones may be added to the agreement flights, previously both Roscosmos and NASA did not rule out that the program could be extended.
The crew's weightlessness indicator will be a soft toy in the shape of a seagull – the symbol of the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater, in addition, In honor of the 125th anniversary of the theater, the flag of the Art Theater will be sent into space, also with the image of a seagull. Earlier, the theater's artistic director Konstantin Khabensky gave the weightlessness indicator to the cosmonauts.
The rocket with the spacecraft was installed on the launch pad of site No. 31 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome on September 12. An image of Sergei Afanasyev is applied to its head fairing – on the 105th anniversary of the birth of the first head of the Ministry of General Engineering (IOM, which led the enterprises for the creation of rocket and space technology in the USSR).
The rocket also has stickers dedicated to 125- anniversary of the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater, the 130th anniversary of Novosibirsk and the International Exhibition and Forum “Russia”.
Previously, images of Sergei Korolev and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky were already applied to the fairings of rockets with manned spacecraft (for the 115th and 165th anniversary of the legendary Soviet designer and thinker – pioneer of astronautics). In April 2011 and 2021, that is, on the 50th and 60th anniversary of the first man's flight into space, the Soyuz spacecraft flying to the ISS were named in honor of the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.