U.S., Russian Astronauts Reach International Space Station

September 25th, 2013

A Soyuz capsule with three U. S. and Russian astronauts docked with the International Space Station late Wednesday to restore the orbiting science lab to its usual six person status.

NASA’s Mike Hopkins, a one time college football team captain; cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, a physician and Russian Air Force officer; and cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy, a biochemist, docked at 10:48 p.m., EDT.  The newcomers were greeted by Fyodor Yurchikhin, the station’s commander; NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg; and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano.

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins prepares to lift off. Photo Credit/NASA TV

The Soyuz docking sets the stage for a second attempt by Orbital Sciences Corp’s unpiloted Cygnus cargo capsule to rendezvous as soon as Saturday.  Launched Sept. 18, the Cygnus and its 1,540 pound cargo of crew provisions, was to approach the station on Sept. 22, maneuvering close enough for Parmitano and Nyberg to grapple it with the Canadian robot arm.

Mike Hopkins, Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy, left to right, prepare to board their Soyuz rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Photo Credit/NASA TV

A navigation software mismatch between the Cygnus and the station prompted a brief delay and then a longer postponement until the Soyuz operations were complete.

The station’s U. S. led Mission Management Team is to convene late this week to iron out a new Cygnus rendezvous schedule.

Hopkins, Kotov and Ryazanskiy replace NASA’s Chris Cassidy and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin, who descended to Earth on Sept. 10, ending a 5 1/2 month mission.

The newcomers have trained for a six month stay that will feature three Russian spacewalks for external science activities and maintenance and deliveries from a second Cygnus supply ship in December and a SpaceX Dragon and Russian Progress in early 2014.

A November spacewalk by Kotov and Ryazanskiy will take the Olympic torch outside the space station. A few days later, the torch will return to Earth with Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano, and then make its way to Soichi, Russiafor the 2014 Winter Games in February.

The station’s six astronauts are participating in dozens of science experiments in fields ranging from biology and bio technology to Earth observations.