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Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft may cut flight time to ISS to 3 hours

July 15, 2015, 17:44 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The historical experience of the USSR and the US suggests it is possible to conduct spacecraft docking in the near-Earth orbit a few hours after the blast-off, a space industry source told TASS

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MOSCOW, July 15. /TASS/. Russia’s Soyuz manned spacecraft in the future will be able to cut the time of flight to the International Space Station (ISS) to just 1.5-3 hours, a space industry source told TASS on Wednesday.

"The historical experience of the Soviet Union and the United States suggests it is possible to conduct spacecraft docking in the near-Earth orbit a few hours after the blast-off. After regular flights to the space station started, this became impossible for a number of reasons, but modern technology will make it possible in the near future to cut the trip of the Soyuz spacecraft and a new manned spaceship to the ISS to just 1.5-3 hours of flight, that is, 1-2 orbits," said the source.

There is no specified timeframe yet for the testing of this flight scheme. "In any case, before its introduction for manned spacecraft, it will be several times tested on the Progress cargo spacecraft," he said.

Russia’s Mission Control Center (MCC) started to use a ‘fast track’ ISS rendezvous scheme with the duration of six hours (four orbits around the Earth) in 2012. Prior to that, and in some cases after that resupply vehicles and manned spacecraft were launched to the ISS under a two-day flight scheme.

The transfer to the short cut six-hour flight scheme to the orbiting outpost was necessitated by the location of Russian ground tracking stations. The rendezvous and docking manoeuvres over the Russian control centers required a four-orbit flight. Under this scheme, a spacecraft now makes manoeuvres almost immediately after orbit insertion, he said.

The forthcoming launch of Russia’s manned spacecraft Soyuz TMA-17M from the Baikonur cosmodrome (Kazakhstan) will be carried out on July 23 at 00:03am, Moscow time. The spacecraft will perform a flight to the ISS under a six-hour scheme.

The main crew is expected to comprise Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui and US astronaut Kjell Norwood Lindgren, while the backup crew will consist of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, US astronaut Timothy Kopra and European Space Agency astronaut Timothy Peake. It was initially planned that the crew would head to the ISS on May 26. However, the launch was postponed until late July after the April crash of the Progress M27-M cargo ship.

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