The Russian Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft has become the fastest to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). It took only 3 hours and 3 minutes after the lift-off from Kazakhstan for the spacecraft to dock with the ISS.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov were onboard the Soyuz. Ryzhikov is going to take over the control of the ISS. The Russian said that the team is going to look for the source of a minor oxygen leak in the Russian section of the ISS.
Under normal circumstances, a Soyuz spacecraft takes about 6 hours and 4 orbits around the Earth to catch up with the ISS. However, this time, it only took two orbits. This means that the MS-17 has now become the very first crewed spacecraft to have successfully tried and completed the “fast-track” rendezvous method.
The Russians had already carried out the method with their Progress cargo resupply spacecraft. Similar to the Soyuz M-17, these spacecrafts have completed the manoeuvre five times so far. Among the fastest was Progress 70. Launched in 2018, the spacecraft took 3 hrs 48 minutes to reach ISS after lift-off.
Both the crewed and cargo missions used to take about 2 days to reach the ISS. This changed when in 2013, 3 Expedition 35 crew members only a 6 hour rendezvous time to reach the orbit in a Soyuz spacecraft. The Expedition 64 crew onboard the M-17 decreased the time by half.
The three new crew members of the International Space Station are going to spend about 6 months each on the orbiting lab. Rubins, Ryzhikov, and Kud-Sverchkov have joined NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. The latter three astronauts got deployed on the ISS in the month of April.
Rubin, a microbiologist, said in a press conference, ”We’re planning to try some really interesting things like bio-printing tissues and growing cells in space and continuing our work on sequencing DNA.”
“We will take with us additional equipment, which will allow us to detect the place of this leak more precisely,’’ said Ryzhikov.