Second Docking Attempt for Russian Spacecraft Planned for Monday Night

The Soyuz MS-14 Spacecraft
The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is pictured during its first docking attempt early Saturday.

International Space Station managers and the international partners met on Saturday and approved a plan to allow a second rendezvous and docking attempt for the unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft to occur on Monday night. The Soyuz’ initial docking attempt early Saturday was aborted after what Russian officials said was a suspected problem with a component associated with the Kurs automated rendezvous system for the Poisk module docking port.

The Soyuz was commanded to back away from the station after approaching to within 100 meters of Poisk when the vehicle could not achieve a solid telemetry lock to that docking port through the automated rendezvous system. The unpiloted Soyuz is currently orbiting a safe distance from the ISS with all of its systems functioning normally. The six crewmembers on board the station were never in any danger during the initial rendezvous attempt.

Plans now call for the unpiloted Soyuz to execute a second docking attempt Monday night at 10:12 p.m. Central time, 11:12 p.m. Eastern time, but this time to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module. The Kurs system on Zvezda has been checked out and is in perfect working order. NASA TV coverage of the docking Monday night will begin at 9:30 p.m. Central time, 10:30 p.m. Eastern time.

To accommodate the new plan, Expedition 60 crewmembers Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos, Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Drew Morgan of NASA will don their Russian Sokol launch and entry suits Sunday night, climb aboard their Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft which docked to Zvezda on July 20 and undock for a 25-minute Soyuz relocation maneuver and a manual docking by Soyuz commander Skvortsov to the Poisk module. The suspect Kurs rendezvous unit component for Poisk is not a factor for the relocation maneuver by Skvortsov and his Soyuz crewmates.

NASA TV coverage of the relocation will begin Sunday night at 10 p.m. Central time, 11 p.m. Eastern time. Undocking of the Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft from Zvezda is scheduled at 10:34 p.m. Central time, 11:34 p.m. Eastern time with redocking to Poisk scheduled at 10:59 p.m. Central time, 11:59 p.m. Eastern time.

It would be the first Soyuz relocation since August 2015 when Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos and NASA’s Scott Kelly conducted a similar operation, but in reverse, flying their Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft from Poisk to Zvezda.

The docking of the unpiloted Soyuz Monday night will preserve the robotic release of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft Tuesday morning after a four-week stay at the station. Dragon will be deorbited for a parachute-assisted splashdown several hours later in the Pacific Ocean, bringing home cargo and valuable scientific experiments from the orbital laboratory.

Russian Spacecraft Docking Attempt No Earlier Than Monday

International Space Station Configuration
International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft and Russia’s Progress 73 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-12 and MS-13 crew ships.

An uncrewed Russian Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is now a safe distance away from the International Space Station following an abort during its final approach for a docking to the Poisk module.

After the cosmonauts on the station aborted an automated docking attempt early Saturday, Russian flight controllers told the crew on the station that early data indicates the issue that prevented its automated docking resides on the station’s side of the so-called KURS automated rendezvous system, not on the Soyuz itself.

The Soyuz is on a safe trajectory above and behind the space station that will bring it in the vicinity of the orbital complex again in 24 hours and 48 hours. Russian flight controllers have indicated the next earliest docking attempt could be Monday morning.

In the meantime, Russian controllers informed Expedition 60 commander Alexey Ovchinin and flight engineer Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos they will send instructions to swap the signal amplifier of the station’s KURS docking system and test it before proceeding with another docking attempt.

The Soyuz launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 11:38 p.m. EDT (8:38 a.m. Aug. 22 Baikonur time) on a test flight to validate the spacecraft’s compatibility with a revamped Soyuz booster rocket.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Uncrewed Russian Spacecraft Aborts Station Approach

The unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft
The unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is pictured near the International Space Station.

At 1:36 a.m. EDT, Russian cosmonauts issued a command to abort the automated approach of an uncrewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station after the craft was unable to lock onto its target at the station’s space-facing Poisk module.

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 11:38 p.m. EDT (8:38 a.m. Aug. 22 Baikonur time) on a test flight. It made 34 orbits of Earth en route to its anticipated docking to the station.

Following the abort, the spacecraft backed a safe distance away from the orbital complex while the Russian flight controllers assess the next steps.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Uncrewed Soyuz Rocket Launches on Two-Day Trip to Station

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft lifts off
The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Aug. 21

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft launched at 11:38 p.m. EDT (8:38 a.m. Aug. 22 Baikonur time) from Site 31 at the Cosmodrome on a Soyuz 2.1a booster, which has been used recently to launch uncrewed Russian Progress cargo resupply missions to the space station.

The Soyuz 2.1a booster, equipped with a new digital flight control system and upgraded engines, is replacing the Soyuz FG booster that has been used for decades to launch crews into space. The Soyuz spacecraft will have an upgraded motion control and navigation system, as well as a revamped descent control system.

Instead of crew members, the Soyuz will carry 1,450 pounds of cargo to the Expedition 60 crew currently residing on the orbital outpost.

The Soyuz will navigate to station for an automated docking on the space-facing Poisk module on Saturday, Aug. 24, at 1:30 a.m.  After a two-week stay at the station, the Soyuz will be commanded to undock from the station on Friday, Sept. 6, at 2:13 p.m.

NASA TV coverage of the docking, and undocking activities is as follows:

Saturday, Aug. 24:

  • 12:45 a.m. – Docking coverage (docking scheduled for 1:30 a.m.)

Friday, Sept. 6:

  • 1:45 p.m. – Undocking coverage (undocking scheduled for 2:13 p.m.)