Soyuz MS-02 to Launch New Crew Into Orbit from Kazakh Steppe

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By Marina Romanova

soyuz-ms-02-launch1Repaired Soyuz rocket launched two Russian cosmonauts and American astronaut into orbit yesterday from Baikonur Cosmodrome located in Kazakhstan steppe. The crew of Soyuz MS-02 consists of vehicle commander Sergey Ryzhikov, flight engineer Andrei Borisenko and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough. According to the Roscosmos State Corporation, the start of the mission was initially targeted for September 23 but was delayed due to a technical malfunction – a burned cable inside the spacecraft.

The Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft is expected to commence a two-day trip to the International Space Station (ISS), during which it will orbit Earth 34 times while testing upgraded spacecraft systems. Docking with the orbital laboratory’s Poisk (Russian for ‘search’) module is scheduled to take place around 5:59 a.m. EDT (9:59 GMT) October 21.

The new set of cosmonauts will take command of the space station starting this Friday until February 2017. The three new team members will replace the current ISS crew on duty in space namely NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin and Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi, who are scheduled to leave the ISS and return to Earth on October 29.

Ryzhikov, Borisenko and Kimbrough will spend a little more than four months keeping up the station and conducting more than 250 scientific experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science aboard the station.

The crew will also welcome aboard supply spacecraft, including a Japanese HTV cargo ship and a Russian Progress freighter in December and will continue the station’s ongoing research.

“The entire spaceflight is like one big experiment; not just ours, but everyone’s,” Sergey Ryzhikov said at the news conference. “[It] has many parts: For example, we are testing new technology, there is a scientific component, we’ll do experiments on the mice that will fly along with us, and the crew itself is kind of like a lab rat,” Russian and international media reported cosmonaut as saying.

soyuz-ms-02-launch2As the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Space Security 2015 report showed, space spending has directly contributed to several useful spin-offs down here on Earth, including cancer-detecting technology.

During a pre-launch news conference, Russia Today reporter asked Kimbrough if he would be able to cast his vote in the U.S. presidential election from space, CBS News reports.

“And then, another question, be honest here, when you’re due to return, it’s either going to be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in the White House. Have you considered maybe just staying in space, at least for another four years?” Amid laughter, Kimbrough said he would, in fact, be able to vote from the space station, adding “that’s going to be a special thing for me, to be able to say I voted from space.”

Andrei Borisenko is the most experienced among the crew. This is his second visit to the International Space Station. He commanded the station during 2011’s Expedition 28; before that, he worked in Mission Control for the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, for years and acted as a flight director for the Russian space station Mir as well as the International Space Station.

This flight is also Shane Kimbrough’s second one; he first flew on the space shuttle on a space station construction mission in 2008. As for Sergey Ryzhikov this launch is his first spaceflight, although he is an experienced air force pilot.

“It will be neat watching Sergey, for the first time, learning how to fly, and Andrey and I could be laughing at him,” Kimbrough joked during the press-conference. “Nah, it will take us a few days to get back into flying mode as well,” he added.

Yesterday’s mission will be the 131st flight of a Soyuz spacecraft and the third manned mission to the ISS this year. The next crew, according to Roskosmos and NASA, consisting of Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and NASA’s Peggy A. Whitson, will be sent to the station on November 15, 2016, aboard the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft.


Space budget

With US$314 billion in commercial revenue and government spending in 2013, and an average annual growth rate between 5 percent and nearly 8 percent, the space sector is one of the fastest growing in the world, 2015 World Economic Forum report reads.

soyuz-ms-02-launch3Between 2001 and 2010, 140 EO satellites from 26 countries were deployed on orbit; between 2011 and 2020 this number is expected to increase to 298 satellites operated by 43 different countries, according to the Springer Press.

Space-based technologies among other innovations have revolutionized transportation and navigation capabilities, resulting in more efficient routes, improved safety records and lower operating costs.

The key enabling technology is the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), like the US Global Positioning System (GPS), together with the Russian GLONASS, Europe’s Galileo, China’s Beidou, Japan’s QZSS and India’s IRNSS. These satellites have provided a flexible, accurate and low-cost method to track position, plan routes and more precisely time delivery/arrival schedules in ground, maritime and air transportation.

According to some estimation, the wider market enabled by GNSS services was worth €150 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow to €250 billion by 2022.

So far the U.S. has the biggest budget for space exploration (US$39,332 billion), spending over six times more than Russia (which spent around US$5,265 billion), according to OECD figures for 2013. However, Russia is spending up to 0.25 percent of nation GDP for its space program compared to the U.S. space budget, which represents 0.23 percent of country’s GDP. France is spending only 0.10 percent of national GDP for the European space program, Japan and China – only 0.07 percent each.

Although OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries account for the largest proportion of the global space budget, BRIC economies increased their spending on space exploration between 2008 and 2013. The Russian space budget grew 144 percent during this period – an increase which has seen Russia take the top spot for spending on space budget as a share of GDP.

Despite of Russia’s comparatively small space budget, Russian language was announced to be a mandatory subject in NASA’s space training program since February of this year, the US space agency announced on its website. And at present Russian Soyuz rocket is the only mean of getting astronauts to the International Space Station.

Russian space industry alone directly employs an estimated 250,000 professionals, while in OECD countries the space sector employs 120,000 workers.

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