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Soyuz MS-17 ready to head back home

In a few hours, the two Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, as well as NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, will undock from the International Space Station (ISS) and will head back home onboard the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft. This will be the end of their 185-day long mission, which began on October 14, 2020 with the launch atop a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The mission

The mission began on October 14, 2020 with the launch of the two cosmonauts and the one astronaut onboard the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft atop a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Liftoff of Soyuz from the Baikonur Comsodrome in Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin.
Liftoff of Soyuz from the Baikonur Comsodrome in Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin.

After about nine minutes of flight, the Soyuz MS-17 vehicle successfully separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle and began is trip to the International Space Station. Three hours and two orbits around the planet later, the spacecraft docked to the Earth-facing docking port of the Rassvet module at the Russian segment of the space station.

Soyuz MS-17 approaching the ISS. Image Credit: NASA/Chris Cassidy.
Soyuz MS-17 approaching the ISS. Image Credit: NASA/Chris Cassidy.

Upon their arrival, Rubins, Kud-Sverchkov and Ryzhikov first joined the ISS Expedition 63 crew under the command of NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy. After the departure of Chris Cassidy, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner on October 21, 2020, the Soyuz MS-17 crew became part of the Expedition 64 crew and Sergey Ryzhikov commander of the ISS. On March 19, 2021, the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft was relocated by its crew from the Rassvet module to the space-facing docking port of the Poisk module. That was done to open the docking port at Rassvet for the April 9 arrival of Soyuz MS-18. The mission will now end on April 16, after 185 days in space. On April 15, Ryzhikov handed over the station command to NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, who arrived at the ISS onboard the Crew-1 Crew Dragon capsule in November 2020.

Undocking and landing

Once the crew has transferred into the spacecraft and has performed subsequent checks, the hatch of the Soyuz MS-17 vehicle is expected to be closed at 22:10 UTC this evening. If all systems are ready for the journey back to the planet, Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov will undock from the space-facing docking port of the station’s Poisk module at 01:34 UTC on Saturday morning and will slowly back away from the ISS. After performing a deorbit burn and the separation of the spacecraft’s orbital module and service module, the descent module with the three people will start to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. The landing of the woman and the two men is scheduled for 04:56 UTC / 10:56 ALMT (local time) on Saturday morning. During descent through the lower atmosphere, the capsule will be slowed down by multiple parachutes. Just before touchdown on the steppe of Kazakhstan, braking engines behind the heat shield, which will be jettisoned before the landing, will be fired to slow down the capsule even more. After landing, recovery personal will then land near the landing site by helicopter and will help the crew members exit the capsule. Later Rubins will be flown to Houston in the United States and Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov to Moscow in Russia.

The mission was the second spaceflight of Sergey Ryzhikov and Kate Rubins and the first one of Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. During their stay onboard the orbital laboratory, they conducted research in multiple fields such as Earth science, human research and technology development.

Sergey Ryzhikov, Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Kate Rubins onboard the ISS. Image Credit: NASA.
Sergey Ryzhikov, Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Kate Rubins onboard the ISS. Image Credit: NASA.

Sources

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-astronaut-kate-rubins-crewmates-arrive-safely-at-space-station

https://www.nasa.gov/astronauts/biographies/shannon-walker/biography

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-to-provide-live-coverage-of-space-station-crew-landing

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