The Soyuz, a Russian spacecraft, finally docked successfully with the International Space Station after a two-day delay, according to NBC News.
Just hours after the launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Khasakstan on Tuesday, the Soyuz aborted its automated engine burn. NASA explained that the Soyuz was not at the proper altitude when the 24-second burn was meant to occur and therefore, the needed orbital maneuver did not take place.
The original plan had been for a six-hour, four orbit journey to the station. The engine glitch forced a change to those plans. Controllers had to instead fall back on a two-day, 34 orbit itinerary, which was the standard trip plan until last year.
Kyle Herring, NASA spokesman, told NBC News that despite the glitch the Soyuz would be ready to dock with the station at 7:58 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Commander Alexander Skvortsov was monitoring the automated approach from the Soyuz’s center seat, when the docking mechanism inside the nose of the Soyuz TMA-12M engaged its counterpart at the end of the upper Poisk module. The crew of the Soyuz even managed to shave a few minutes off from their estimated arrival time by arriving at 7:53 p.m. EDT (GMT – 4), CBS reported. A few minutes after docking, latches engaged and locked the Soyuz in place.
Before leaving the Soyuz Skvortsov, flight engineer Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson performed a number of leak checks. Once done with that, however, they Soyuz crew was able to open the main hatch and enter the station.
The Soyuz crew was then eagerly welcomed by Expedition 39 commander Koichi Wakata, Mikhail Tyurin and Rick Mastracchio. The combined crews were then able to gather in the Zvezda command module for the traditional post-docking radio chat with space agency managers, as well as relieved friends and family members at the Russian flight control center close to Moscow.
One safety briefing later and Skvortsov, Artemyer and Swanson were ready to settle in. After their busy, two-day long delay, because of the Soyuz engine glitch, the crew was ready for a break. On the ground, however, U.S. flight controllers were hard at work, planning to press ahead with work to load new software into the station’s computer network
The crew of the station had been expecting a delivery of a commercial SpaceX cargo ship next Wednesday. The launching originally was supposed to occur on Sundays. and was instead put on pause. the hold-up is because of problems with the U.S. Air Force tracking equipment. The new launch date has yet to be announced.
When the glitch was discovered, engineers down-linked stored data from the Soyuz to finger out what caused the 1-degree altitude error. The root cause of the Soyuz’s engine glitch has yet to be revealed. However, NASA officials assure that the problem is understood and that engineers have developed procedures to make sure that the same thing does not happen during future flights.
Wakata and his two crew-mates had been alone on the station since March 11th, when Soyuz’s TMA-10M commander Oleg Kotov, Sergey Ryazanskiy and Mike Hopkins returned to Earth. Wakata and his crew are scheduled to depart the station in their Soyuz TMA-11M ferry craft on May 13th.