Crewed Soyuz missions have resumed with the launch of the ISS Expedition 58 crew aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft. NASA’s Anne McClain, Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency will join their counterparts aboard the ISS later today.
The Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft carrying the three astronauts was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:31 UTC (17:31 local time) today. After reaching orbit, the spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket’s upper stage ready for its rendezvous with the ISS. The Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft is expected to dock with the station at 17:36 UTC (12:36 EST) later today. The hatch opening and crew welcome ceremony will follow at 19:36 UTC (14:36 EST).
Today’s launch is the first following the Soyuz MS-10 mishap in October. The mishap saw the two-person crew forced to abort in a ballistic descent mode after one of the four strap-on boosters collided with the rocket’s core stage. Both crewmembers were recovered without any injuries after returning to Earth.
Following the failed launch, a multi-agency commission was set up to investigate the incident. It was determined that a separation contact sensor had been deformed during the installation of the booster that impacted the rocket’s core stage. The impact led to depressurization and quickly thereafter, total vehicle failure.
Luckily, the Soyuz abort systems worked flawlessly pulling the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft away from the stricken rocket.
The three-member crew of the Soyuz MS-11 will join NASA’s Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, and the European Space Agency’s Alexander Gerst. It will be the first time since early October that the station will host a full crew compliment.
A return to a full crew complement will significantly ease the burden on the current three-person crew. It is estimated that general station upkeep requires two crew members a day. As a result, with the reduced crew, there is currently just one crew member free at any one time to conduct and monitor experiments and testing. As result, the three new crew members will boost the station’s science operations by as much as 75%.