Next International Space Station Crew To Launch April 7

By Cheryl Pellerin
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – The next crew of the International Space Station is set to launch April 7 in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Expedition 15 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, flight engineer and Soyuz commander Oleg Kotov, and spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi will dock with the station April 9.

The crew exchange is the first in a series of launches and docking activities that will support the rotation of space-station crews and continue construction of the orbiting laboratory over the next year.

“Between now and February 2008, we have a very busy year,” said Kirk Shireman, International Space Station Program deputy manager, during a March 27 briefing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Expedition 15 is one of the most complex since permanent human occupancy of the station began nearly seven years ago.


Over the next 12 months, four Russian Progress space-freighters will visit the space station, as will two Soyuz spacecraft and the Jules Verne, the first of the European Space Agency (ESA) automated transfer vehicles (ATVs). Also planned are six flights of NASA space shuttles and 19 spacewalks from the space station.

On the space station, installation will be completed for ESA’s largest single contribution, the Columbus research laboratory, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) Kibo Japanese experiment module (JEM), and the Canadian Space Agency’s two-armed robot, Dextre. Several more pieces of the U.S. segment will be added, the station’s truss segment will be completed, and Harmony Node 2, which will increase living and working space, will be added.

New control centers also are coming online on 2007, Shireman added, including the ATV control center at the Toulouse Space Center in France, the Columbus control center at the German Aerospace Center facility in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, and the JEM control center in Tsukuba, Japan.

“Not only are we integrating a number of items on orbit in the next year,” Shireman said, “we’re also integrating a lot of the ground infrastructure. And you’ll see the fruits of years of labor coming forward this year.”


Yurchikhin, Kotov, and the fifth spaceflight participant, former Microsoft Corp. executive Charles Simonyi, will arrive at the space station April 9 and begin a 10-day stay for Simonyi, who is bringing along a gourmet meal for the crew prepared by French chef Alain Ducasse.

The six-course meal will include quail roasted in wine, duck breast with capers, shredded chicken parmentier (made with potatoes), apple fondant pieces (a syrupy confection), rice pudding with candied fruit and semolina (wheat) cake with dried apricots.

Simonyi will conduct a series of tests for JAXA, and will act as a test subject for a research program designed by ESA in collaboration with universities, research institutes and companies to study the human body’s response to the microgravity environment aboard the space station, according to a March 29 statement from Space Adventures Ltd., the U.S. company that organizes flights for private space explorers.

On April 20, Simonyi and Expedition 14 members Michael Lopez-Alegria and Mikhail Tyurin will head back to Earth in the Soyuz spacecraft, leaving Expedition 14 astronaut Sunita Williams aboard to become part of Expedition 15. Williams has been aboard the station since December 2006. (See related article.)

Over the six-month-long Expedition 15, three different astronauts will represent the United States. Williams will be aboard until May or June, when Atlantis returns to the space station with her replacement, flight engineer Clayton Anderson. On the subsequent shuttle flight, which is not yet scheduled, flight engineer Daniel Tani will replace Anderson.

The launch of space shuttle Atlantis, originally scheduled for March, was delayed when a February 26 hail storm damaged the shuttle’s external tank. NASA officials plan to announce a new launch date by April 10.


During three planned spacewalks, crew members, among other activities, will install 17 debris panels designed to shield the station's Zvezda service module from micrometeorites and remove and jettison the space station’s early ammonia servicer, a refrigerator-sized reservoir for the initial cooling system, from one of the integrated truss segments.

The crew also will upgrade software in the U.S. and Russian segments, said NASA Expedition 15 increment manager Susan Brand, and activate a new oxygen-generation system rack.

“This rack uses water that we have in a reservoir and electricity from the solar panels to produce oxygen,” said Expedition 15 lead flight director Bob Dempsey. “There is a similar unit on the Russian segment. This will allow us to have some redundancy and prepare for support later in the assembly process when we go to a six-member crew.” The system will be tested for 36 hours, then turned off until it is needed.

The software upgrade on the Russian service module computers, among other things, will support the ATV docking later in the year.

Despite the busy schedule, Brand said, the Expedition 15 crew will work a standard five-day work week and will have daily time off for exercise and relaxation.

Additional information about the space station is available on the NASA Web site.