A little while ago the Soyuz-02 MS spacecraft, which blasted off about two days ago from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, has reached the International Space Station carrying three new crewmembers. Robert Kimbrough of NASA, Andrey Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos now complete the Expedition 49 crew.
The trio was scheduled to be launched in September for a five-month mission but a short circuit in the spacecraft discovered during checks forced to postpone the departure. Eventually the problem was in a cable in the control module behind the crew seats, all things considered a trivial problem but during a flight in space that could be enough to cause a tragedy.
There may always be problems in a spacecraft and the development of a new version of the Soyuz spacecraft may have increased for some time the possibility that there are some. Check-ups are carried out to solve them but the launch was delayed by about a month with repercussions on the activities of the International Space Station.
Aboard the Station a lot of research are carried out and many scientific experiments are conducted so the more crew members the better for these activities. The limit is in life support systems so there are normally 6 crew members and when it’s rotation time 3 of them go back to Earth and a few days later another 3 arrive on the Station.
Because of the problems with the latest Soyuz spacecraft, this year there have been several weeks with only 3 crew members on board. This led to uncertainty in other activities such as maintenance, for example the replacement of 12 old nickel-hydrogen batteries used by one of the International Space Station’s solar panel arrays with 6 new lithium-ion batteries.
New batteries are expected to arriva aboard a Japanese HTV cargo spacecraft, which is late too compared to the original schedule. The replacement will be carried out during a spacewalk but at the moment it’s not known who will be chosen to perform it. A number of crew members have been trained for this task so there are different possible choices.
Another consequence of the delay in the completion of the Expedition 49 crew is that it’s already time for another spin. The 3 members who were already on board will return to Earth very soon, on October 29. The next launch is scheduled for mid-November, if the checks at the Soyuz spacecraft are positive.