2011-078A December 21, 2011
Pad 1, Site 5, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Republic of
July 1, 2012
Near the town of Dzhezkazgan, Republic of Kazakhstan.
Soyuz-FG (R7) (serial number Л15000-39),
Soyuz TMA-03M (serial number 703)
192 da 18 h 58 min 21s Antares
ISS resident crew (ISS-30/31) transport 29S
KONONENKO, Oleg Dmitryevich, 47, civilian, RSA, TMA commander, ISS-30 flight engineer, ISS-31 commander, second flight Previous mission: Soyuz TMA-12/ISS-17 (2008)
PETTIT, Donald Roy, 56, civilian, NASA Soyuz TMA flight engineer, ISS-30/31 flight engineer, third flight
Previous missions: STS-113/ISS-6/TMA-1 (2002/3), STS-126 (2008) KUIPERS, Andre, 53, civilian (The Netherlands), ESA Soyuz TMA flight engineer, ISS-30/31 flight engineer, second flight Previous mission: Soyuz TMA-4/ISS-YC6/TMA-3 (2004)
This was the third flight test of the new Soyuz TMA-M and the only qualification test flight of the vehicle. Following this mission, the TMA-M would be confirmed in its operational roles as both the primary crew transport to and from the ISS and as the Crew Rescue Vehicle for resident crew expeditions.
The three-man crew docked their spacecraft with the Rassvet module on December 23. The upcoming three-day Christmas break allowed the crew time to adjust to the station’s environment and to catch up with the work being conducted by the prime ISS-30 crew. The assignment of experienced NASA and ESA astronauts to the crew would help increase the science in the U. S. segment (and in particular the European Columbus lab) once again. Dr. Pettit, a chemical engineer, had spent over 158 days on the station as a member of the ISS-6 crew almost a decade before and, while much had changed on the station since then, his experience soon began to show in his regular, informative blogs from space as he delved into the expanding American segment science program with Burbank.
ESA astronaut Andre Kuipers is inside the European Columbus laboratory during the PromISSe mission.
Kuipers was also working on the station for a second time, but this time as a resident not a visitor. He also blogged his experiences to followers on Earth. Kuipers’ science program was called PromISSe, a name that was a reflection of the efforts and expectations placed on human space missions. It also continued the trend of the four previous European missions of including the acronym “ISS” as part of the science program name. This package included 30 investigations covering a range of disciplines in human research, fluid physics, materials science, radiation and solar research, and biology and technology demonstrations. In addition, Kuipers participated in over 20 experiments for NASA and JAXA using over 30 facilities spread across the station.
In the Russian segment, work continued on the experiments that were running during ISS-29, with Kononenko planned to assist for 56 hours 25 minutes in science operations during the ISS-30 phase. ISS-31 Russian segment science plans totaled 146 hours 20 minutes of science for Kononenko, Padalka, and Revin. The latter pair would arrive on Soyuz TMA-04M in May.
Following the Christmas holidays and New Year celebrations it was down to work for the TMA-03M crew as flight engineers for ISS-30. Kononenko assisted Shkaplerov on the 6h 15 min EVA from Pirs on February 16. As well as the science, maintenance, and housekeeping programs, the crew practiced required safety drills and supported the now familiar exchange of Progress resupply craft, as well as the arrival of the third ATV vehicle in March. Burbank passed command to Kononenko on April 25, effectively ending the ISS-30 expedition and starting the ISS-31 phase. Formal closure of ISS-30 occurred when the last Soyuz TMA (No. 22) was undocked two days later on April 27. The Kononenko crew had spent 122 days as flight engineers for ISS-30 and now took the prime role for ISS-31 for three weeks, until they were joined by the TMA-04 crew on May 17, returning the station to six-person operation.
On May 25, a new milestone was reached in ISS history with the arrival of the first “commercial” mission (though still largely funded by the U. S. government). The Dragon unmanned resupply vehicle was grabbed by Canadarm2 and attached to the nadir port on the Harmony Node. This vehicle was the first step on the road to replacing the Shuttle as a U. S. resupply vehicle. Operated by SpaceX from their Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, the vehicle had been launched on the Falcon 9 rocket from LC-40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, three days before. A trial rendezvous with the station was completed on May 24. The crew “entered the Dragon” as the media put it, on May 26 to begin the unloading process.
The spacecraft delivered 1,1041b (500.77 kg) of cargo and was subsequently loaded with 1,367 lbs. 620.07 kg) of hardware for the return to Earth. This was an important difference with Dragon. Unlike Progress, ATV, and HTV, this new vehicle could reenter the atmosphere and be recovered, greatly increasing the cargo return capacity over Soyuz (22.671b or 50 kg) and to a small degree compensating for the loss of the Shuttle’s significantly larger cargo return capability. The Dragon was grappled by Canadarm2 on May 31 and then released to begin its journey back to Earth, completing a successful splashdown under three parachutes in the Pacific Ocean some 563 miles (905.86 km) west of Baja, California, in the Pacific Ocean. The successful flight had logged 9 days 7 hours 57 minutes and was the first operational splashdown associated with a returning American spacecraft (admittedly unmanned) since Apollo 18 returned at the end of the Apollo Soyuz Test Project on July 24, 1975.
Aboard the ISS, the science work continued, along with preparations for the return of the TMA-03M crew at the end of their residence. On June 16, the international crew was joined in orbit (but not on board) by three Chinese Shenzhou 9 crew on a mission to the Tiangong-1 space laboratory, that nation’s first space station mission. Meanwhile, on board the ISS station on June 25 Pettit logged his 365th cumulative day in space across his three missions, and in so doing became the 28th person and only the fourth American to achieve this feat.
On June 29, Kononenko handed command of the station over to Padalka, who became the first person to command three separate expeditions to the ISS. For his final hours on the station, Kononenko became flight engineer 4. The prime ISS-31 expedition had been in command for 65 days which, added to their ISS-30 phase, meant that the trio had logged 187 days across the two expeditions. The formal end of the ISS-31 residency was achieved two days later, with TMA – 03M making a safe and nominal return to Earth.
286th manned space flight 118th Russian manned space flight 111th manned Soyuz
3rd Soyuz TMA-M flight; completed the TMA-M test program 30/31st ISS resident crew
First commercial flight of SpaceX Dragon spacecraft Kononenko celebrates his 48th birthday in space (June 21)