Friday, September 26, 2014

Russian Soyuz TMA-14M Capsule Reaches Space Station - Solar Array Deployment Issue

A Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft, with only one of its two solar arrays deployed, is seen nearing the International Space Station on Sept. 25, 2014 (Eastern Time) to deliver three new members of the Expedition 41 crew. 

The stuck solar array did not hinder the Soyuz capsule's single-day trip to the space station.

Credit: NASA TV

A Russian-built Soyuz capsule carrying a crew of three reached the International Space Station late Thursday (Sept. 25), despite a stuck solar array that failed to deploy just after its launch six hours earlier.

The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft linked up with the station at 10:11 p.m. EDT (0211 GMT) as the two spacecraft sailed high over the Pacific Ocean.

The Soyuz arrived at the space station with American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts, including Elena Serova, the first female cosmonaut ever to visit the International Space Station.

Russia's Soyuz vehicles are three-person spacecraft made up of a crew capsule, orbital module and service module powered by two winglike solar arrays.

Initially, Russian engineers were concerned the stuck solar array would block a radiator and lead to hotter temperatures inside the Soyuz, but the capsule's crew reported all was well, NASA officials said.

The Soyuz clearly had enough power for a smooth docking, despite being at half-capacity.

"The port solar array isn't deployed but the power situation is fine. It just doesn't look good from the point of view of photographs," one of the Soyuz crew said during the docking.

"We're eating and drinking, and we're in good spirits. Everything is as it should be."

The docking occurred just hours after a flawless launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where Serova and her crewmates, NASA astronaut Barry "Butch" Wilmore and cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev, bid farewell to Earth to begin a nearly six-month space mission.

Trio joined three other space travelers already aboard the station: astronaut Reid Wiseman of NASA; Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency; and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suarev, who commands the station's Expedition 41 crew.

That little red streak hidden behind the SpaceX Dragon solar array is the Soyuz launching.

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