Soyuz spacecraft docks with ISS despite failing to deploy solar panel
A Russian-made SoyuzTMA-17M blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome last night, as it undertook a journey to theInternational Space Station. Aboard the spacecraft was NASA astronautKjell Lindgren, Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) cosmonautOleg Kononenko and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)astronaut Kimiya Yui. The initial launchproceeded without incident, with the rocket successfully reaching preliminary staging orbit. However,soon after reaching space it became apparent that the spacecraft'sport solar array had failed to open.
Those watching theevents unfold live on NASA TV from the comfort of their homes mayhave been uncomfortably reminded of the fate of Progress 59, aRussian cargo spacecraft based on a modified Soyuz design which waslost in April following a terminal loss of telemetry. Thankfully,yesterday's malfunction was more annoying than life-threatening.
In spite of themalfunction, ground operators determined that there was no danger incontinuing docking maneuvers with the Soyuz. Capable offunctioning with one solar panel, the spacecraft was able to rendezvous with thestation under normal mission parameters. The Soyuz took fourorbits of Earth to rendezvous and dock with the ISS, in a journey thatlasted 5 hours and 43 minutes from launch to acquisition.
In the final minutes ofthe mission, as if in apology, astronauts aboard the Soyuz reportedvisual confirmation that the faulty solar panel had finally extended.Hatch opening took place at 12:56 AM ET, with the new arrivalsreturning the ISS to its nominal crew compliment of six.
Lindgren , Kononenkoand Yui will spend the next five months aboard the station carryingout a wide range of scientific experiments, from harvesting spacecrops to sessions of lunar photography designed to inform thenavigation systems of NASA's next-generation Orion spacecraft.
Scroll down to see the Soyuz spacecraft's final approach to the ISS.