Monday, May 14, 2012

Soyuz Countdown


Soyuz launch coverage on NASA television starts tonight at 7pm Pacific, 10pm Eastern, 2am GMT, 5am Moscow! Launch is set for Kazakh time 5/15 9:01am, when the Soyuz TMA-04M will carry the Expedition 31/32 crew members to the International Space Station.

Roskosmos Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba are scheduled for a long-duration mission aboard the ISS. Comrade Revin is the spaceflight rookie on this particular mission, and if all goes well, I look forward to adding him to my master Map of Space Travelers as the #523rd human being to venture into the black!

Soyuz TMA-04M crew
Acaba, Padalka, Revin

On this eve of the launch (late May 14th in American time zones, May 15th in Kazakhstan), I thought I would research the steps up to the Soyuz launch, having only been watching NASA TV sporadically over the past few days as they carried out the rocket mating and the rollout to the launchpad at Baikonur Cosmodrome.

I know a great deal about Space Shuttle Countdown 101, but as yet, still have much to learn about the processes involved with the Soyuz vehicles. They have been around for a long time, so there's no excuse! But like most other things, we examine closely that which is nearer to home.

As I'm now watching the Soyuz TMA-04M final pre-launch crew news conference and Russian State Commission meeting in Baikonur and gearing up for tonight's launch, I thought I'd share the steps I found...

Blessing the rocket

T-06:00:00 Batteries are installed in the booster

T-05:30:00 State commission gives "go" to take launch vehicle

T-05:15:00 Crew arrives at launch site facility

T-05:00:00 Tanking begins

T-04:20:00 Spacesuits prepped and donned by cosmonauts

T-04:00:00 Booster is loaded with liquid oxygen

T-03:40:00 Crew meets delegations

T-03:10:00 Reports to the State commission

T-03:05:00 Crew transferred to the launch pad

T-03:00:00 Vehicle first and second stage oxidizer fueling complete

T-02:30:00 Crew ingress through orbital module side hatch

T-02:00:00 Crew in re-entry vehicle

T-1:45:00 Re-entry vehicle hardware tested; suits ventilated.

T-01:30:00 Launch command monitoring and supply unit prepared; Orbital compartment hatch tested for sealing

T-01:00:00 Launch vehicle control system prepared for use; gyros activated

T-00:45:00 Launch pad service structure halves are lowered

T-00:40:00 Re-entry vehicle hardware testing complete

T-00:30:00 Emergency escape system armed; launch command supply unit activated

T-00:25:00 Service towers withdrawn

T-00:15:00 Space suit leak tests complete; crew engages personal escape hardware automatic mode

T-00:10:00 Launch gyro instruments uncaged; crew activates on-board recorders

T-00:7:00 All pre-launch operations complete

T-00:06:15 Key to launch command given at the launch site; Automatic program of final launch operations is activated

T-00:06:00 All launch complex and vehicle systems ready for launch

T-00:05:00 Systems switched to onboard control;
- Ground measurement system activated by RUN 1 command;
- Commander's controls activated;
- Crew switches to suit air by closing helmets;
- Launch key inserted in launch bunker

T-00:03:15 Combustion chambers of engine pods purged with nitrogen

T-0:002:30 Booster propellant tank pressurization starts;
- Onboard measurement system activated by RUN 2 command;
- Prelaunch pressurization of all tanks with nitrogen begins

T-00:02:15 Oxidizer and fuel drain and safety valves of launch vehicle are closed; Ground filling of oxidizer and nitrogen to the launch vehicle terminated

T-00:01:00 Vehicle on internal power;
- Automatic sequencer on;
- First umbilical tower separates from booster

T-00:00:40 Ground power supply umbilical to third stage is disconnected

T-00:00:20 Launch command given at the launch position; engines turned on

T-00:00:15 Second umbilical tower separates from booster

T-00:00:10 Engine turbo-pumps at flight speed

T-00:00:05 First stage engines at maximum thrust

T-00:00:00 Fueling tower separates... and... LIFT OFF!


Lastly, here's a brief rundown of the whole "T minus" deal if anyone has kids on hand they're teaching about launches ;)