On Wednesday December 21st at 8:16am Eastern / 13:16pm a Soyuz will blast of from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on route to the International Space Station. Naturally Sidepodcast will live comment the event. It seems like a long time since we watched a launch. That is partly due to the Soyuz fleet being grounded after problems with an unmanned flight and partly because I totally screwed up the launch date for the first launch after the vehicle was declared safe.

There are three people on this launch as usual and they will join with the three currently on the ISS to form the Expedition 30 crew. The crew of the Soyuz is Russian Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, American astronaut Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers. Crew spaces on the ISS are allocated in proportion to the amount of money invested in it by each of the space agencies. In practise this means that the Russians and Americans get most of the slots with Canada, Japan and Europe never having more than one crew member on board at a time. I believe Europe is entitled to one crew member for 6 months out of every two years. So if you are European and fancy being an astronaut you better hope you have a Russian or American granny.

Kononenko is a massively experienced cosmonaut having already spent 199 days in space and was a member of the Expedition 17 ISS crew for over 6 months in 2008. He completed two spacewalks totalling more than 12 hours. I assume as the only Russian on board Kononenko will be in charge of the stick.

Pettit has already been to the ISS 3 times; twice as a crew member of a space shuttle and once as a permanent station crew member as part of Expedition 6. He has spent 177 days in space and has previously flown in a Soyuz. Pettit’s twitter account is @astro_Pettit

Kuipers is the second Dutch ESA astronaut and a novice compared to his crew mates. He has spent 11 days in space as a member of a Soyuz crew. He went to the ISS on Soyuz TMA-4 and while his two crew mates became permanent members of the station crew he returned to Earth just over a week later with two members of the previous station crew. Kuipers is @astro_andre on Twitter. https://twitter.com/#!/astro_andre

Unlike space shuttle missions where you can expect endless delays Soyuz tends to launch on schedule almost every time. Video will be available from NASA TV and SpaceflightNow will have text commentary in addition to the video feed. The SpaceflightNow link will not be available until the day of the launch.

90 responses

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 12:39

    Everything is on schedule (as always for Soyuz). The temperature at Baikonur is -18C / 0F

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 12:42

    T-35 minutes

    Best coverage is at http://spaceflightnow.com/station/exp30/status.html

  • Christine21/12/2011 at 12:45

    Will he have a party to celebrate his 200th day in space?

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 12:46

    I hope they have space cake

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 12:47

    I can't remember any celebration of landmarks like that in space before. You would think they would do it for the TV coverage

  • Christine21/12/2011 at 12:48

    I hope they have space cake

    No candles though, I suppose.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 12:49

    They have an enclosed compartment where they do experiments on burning stuff. They were doing some yesterday. Maybe practising for candles. Of course the astronaut is outside that compartment so blowing out candles is a problem

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 12:50

    They launched the last Soyuz in a blizzard??? No wonder NASA dropped the shuttle

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 12:53

    Video from inside the Soyuz. The commander has his stick in his hand so all is well

  • Christine21/12/2011 at 12:57

    I like all these astronauts on Twitter. https://twitter.com/astro_andre/status/149364852836663296

    Next tweet from the space station :)

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 12:58

    T-20 minutes

    Larger format HD video

    http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:00

    I like all these astronauts on Twitter. https://twitter.c…49364852836663296

    They should let him tweet on the way up

  • Christine21/12/2011 at 13:03

    They should let him tweet on the way up

    I don't see why not. It's not like he has anything else to do.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:04

    I don't see why not. It's not like he has anything else to do.

    He doesn't even have a stick.

    He should tape an iphone to his leg and tweet from that

  • Christine21/12/2011 at 13:06

    So if these things can launch in a blizzard, do the launches ever get pushed back? It all seems much more confident than the shuttles.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:07

    Tomorrow you can watch the ISS and Soyuz flying a short distance apart assuming they are flying over you at the right time

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:09

    So if these things can launch in a blizzard, do the launches ever get pushed back? It all seems much more confident than the shuttles.

    Rarely. Only if there is a technical problem. The problem with the shuttle is that it has to fly back so anything that affects its aerodynamics or affects visibility of the landing sites etc is a show stopper. Soyuz is a lot simpler. More like a giant parachute. If anything goes wrong the crew parachute back to the ground after being separated from the rest of the rocket. That was one of the big problems with the shuttle. The crew could not get away even if they knew it was going to blow up

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:11

    If you see the top of the Soyuz it has what looks like a lightning conductor. It is really an escape tower. It has a few small rockets in it so once they separate the capsule from the main rocket those little rockets fire and move them a couple of miles away from the big explosion

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:11

    T-5 minutes

  • Christine21/12/2011 at 13:14

    The SpaceFlightNow thing has an update saying the launch key was inserted in the bunker. Yay for bunkers!

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:15

    All space launch sites have enormous binkers. NASA had one that was empty for almost 40 years and didn't mention it till they started using it again

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:16

    Lift off exactly on time

  • Christine21/12/2011 at 13:17

    Lift off exactly on time

    Woohoo!

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:18

    Everything about the Soyuz is so basic and reliable.

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:19

    Well, I got here just in time in my crazy morning to see it go off into the dark sky.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:19

    Everything about the Soyuz is so basic and reliable.

    When the Americans were flying Apollo they spent millions developing a pen that would write in zero G. The Russians instead used pencils. Guess which was more reliable

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:20

    Good timing Kai

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:20

    oh yay, I get to see the astronauts. Thought I missed all that.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:20

    Not fluffly toy dangling to show us when they hit zero G

  • Christine21/12/2011 at 13:20

    Everything about the Soyuz is so basic and reliable.

    I guess with something as complicated as space flight, you don't really want to go for even more complex. Unless you are NASA.

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:20

    Not fluffly toy dangling to show us when they hit zero G

    hehe

    That was so cool

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:21

    oh yay, I get to see the astronauts. Thought I missed all that.

    There is not a lot happens before launch. No tension like with the shuttle because you know it is going to fly on time

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:22

    I just wanted to see the guy with the stick to push the buttons. #awesome

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:22

    I guess with something as complicated as space flight, you don't really want to go for even more complex. Unless you are NASA.

    Some people think the more high tech the better. Others go for the most basic that will do the job. NASA had an enormous budget and the Soviets had almost nothing so you get two different philosophies

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:23

    I just wanted to see the guy with the stick to push the buttons. #awesome

    It wouldn't be the smae if he could do it all from an iPad

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:23

    It wouldn't be the smae if he could do it all from an iPad

    exactly

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:23

    I wonder if they have a 50 page manual for the stick

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:24

    It wouldn't be the smae if he could do it all from an iPad

    why use an iPad when a stick and spiral notebook from Kmart will do?

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:24

    I wonder if they have a 50 page manual for the stick

    I just laughed out loud while I cover this study hall! #thanks

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:25

    why use an iPad when a stick and spiral notebook from Kmart will do?

    And neither of those need batteries

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:25

    I just laughed out loud while I cover this study hall! #thanks

    You really are asking for trouble telling me that

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:26

    They made it to orbit

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:27

    You really are asking for trouble telling me that

    oops. True. :)

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:27

    I think they are playing Sudoku

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:27

    They made it to orbit

    I wish they had that stuffed animal to show us.

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:28

    I think they are playing Sudoku

    hehe!

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:29

    I wish they had that stuffed animal to show us.

    oh, the bits of paper will do just fine, then. :)

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:29

    I wish they had that stuffed animal to show us.

    This is the first Soyuz I have seen that hasn't had one. You can see when they turn pages to see if they got their quiz questions right that they are in zero G because the page just floats

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:30

    Seeing them crammed in there does make me claustrophobic, though. I need to stretch my arms and look around in this big room.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:31

    Seeing them crammed in there does make me claustrophobic, though. I need to stretch my arms and look around in this big room.

    They have a second 'room' they can float around in once they are in space

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:33

    They must spend fortune on tethers.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:33

    I think this tweet says it all

    https://twitter.com/#!/SpaceKate/status/149481340016926720

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:34

    They must spend fortune on tethers.

    or, to follow the theme, I guess it's just string they found in the garage.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:34

    They must spend fortune on tethers.

    Or on tool bags when they forget to fasten the tethers

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:34

    or, to follow the theme, I guess it's just string they found in the garage.

    That's what they mean by string theory

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:35

    That's what they mean by string theory

    :)

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:36

    The Russian live translation is always this terrible

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:36

    The Russian live translation is always this terrible

    no audio for me.

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:36

    Thanks to Christine and Mr C for hosting this, I love live commenting.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:37

    no audio for me.

    It is one woman translating for everyone without a pause anywhere. It sounds like someone reading all the parts on a script with no emphasis anywhere

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:38

    Thanks to Christine and Mr C for hosting this, I love live commenting.

    It is so much better than constantly having to change the clock on my laptop every time someone new pops up on G plus

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:38

    It is one woman translating for everyone without a pause anywhere. It sounds like someone reading all the parts on a script with no emphasis anywhere

    oh yes, now I remember hearing that before.

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:39

    It is so much better than constantly having to change the clock on my laptop every time someone new pops up on G plus

    no kidding. Mr C > Google+

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:40

    working, downloading the app I did the voice for so I can see it for the first time and live commenting a Shoyuz launch all at the same time. The usual Wed. morning.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:41

    I guess our next launch will be the Spacex Dragon test flight to the ISS in February. The first commercial flight to go there.

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:42

    I guess our next launch will be the Spacex Dragon test flight to the ISS in February. The first commercial flight to go there.

    wow. That is amazing. Look forward to it.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:43

    wow. That is amazing. Look forward to it.

    It is a very long time since I watched the first launch of a new vehicle

  • Kai21/12/2011 at 13:44

    It is a very long time since I watched the first launch of a new vehicle

    This was really fun. I have to grade a test that was just handed in, so time for me to go. See you 'round the interwebs.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:45

    This was really fun. I have to grade a test that was just handed in, so time for me to go. See you 'round the interwebs.

    Have fun with your grading

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 13:51

    Those of us in the UK can see the ISS and Soyuz fly overhead ( assuming no clouds) tonight and tomorrow night then flying in close formation on Friday. Same for much of mainland US

    http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/index.html

  • jwcrummett21/12/2011 at 15:27

    Too bad I missed this this morning. I haven't ever seen a Soyuz launch. I will have to seek it out.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 17:03

    Too bad I missed this this morning. I haven't ever seen a Soyuz launch. I will have to seek it out.

    I will make sure to plug future launches more thoroughly. I doubt there will be another Soyuz launch before April or May but there is the launch of the first commercial vehicle to the ISS in February. Spacex are doing a test flight of their Dragon vehicle and have been so happy with their earlier flight they have announced it will definitely dock with the ISS when that was only an option if things went well.

  • Christine21/12/2011 at 17:38

    ...then flying in close formation on Friday.

    Do they do it like the Red Arrows?

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 17:41

    Do they do it like the Red Arrows?

    Not exactly the same. First they are not red and there are only two of them and they are different sizes. And the formations are not that exciting. They just gradually get closer then dock. Oh and they don't do coloured smoke either.

    Other than all that they are near identical

  • Christine21/12/2011 at 17:42

    Other than all that they are near identical

    I suspected as much :)

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 17:44

    I suspected as much :)

    It is still awesome to see. I have never seen a Soyuz but watching the ISS chasing the shuttle across the sky was amazing. And unlike the Red Arrows they are doing 17000 mph

  • Christine21/12/2011 at 17:45

    It is still awesome to see. I have never seen a Soyuz but watching the ISS chasing the shuttle across the sky was amazing. And unlike the Red Arrows they are doing 17000 mph

    That's just showing off really.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 17:48

    That's just showing off really.

    If there were 8 of them like the Red Arrows and they were flying all those clever moves at that speed they would really be showing off

  • jwcrummett21/12/2011 at 17:48

    Last summer I met Astronaut Bonnie Dunbar at a big event my College put on. We were at this dinner outside at night and she had commented that we should be able to see the ISS that night. She looked at her watch, did some quick math in her head, and pointed out where it would be at and at what time. Sure enough it was. It was pretty awesome!

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 17:51

    Last summer I met Astronaut Bonnie Dunbar at a big event my College put on. We were at this dinner outside at night and she had commented that we should be able to see the ISS that night. She looked at her watch, did some quick math in her head, and pointed out where it would be at and at what time. Sure enough it was. It was pretty awesome!

    Go to the link and keep narrowing you location down in the left hand column and you will get all the sighting opportunities for the next couple of weeks with no counting involved. Of course if I wanted to show off I could have said I counted it all in my head

    http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/index.html

  • Pat W21/12/2011 at 18:31

    Sorry I missed this whilst at work, thanks for covering it. :)

  • Mr C21/12/2011 at 18:57

    who planned a rocket launch during office hours? grr.

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 18:59

    who planned a rocket launch during office hours? grr.

    The launch time is dictated by the orbit of the ISS so they would need to have delayed by quite a few weeks to get it at a more convenient time. Of course if they had delayed this figure would not be so far wrong

    http://www.howmanypeopleareinspacerightnow.com/

  • Steven Roy21/12/2011 at 19:01

    Damn. Missed all 3 sighting opportunities tonight. Although there is so much cloud I probably wouldn't have seen anything

  • Mr C21/12/2011 at 19:01

    Of course if they had delayed this figure would not be so far wrong

    oops.

  • Steven Roy22/12/2011 at 16:16

    Today in the UK you can see the ISS around 5:40pm assuming no clouds. It should be visible for 4 minutes in my part of the frozen north so will be longer in the deep south. There is a second opportunity about 90 minutes later but it is less than a minute.

    Just after 6pm the Soyuz will be visible for 2 minutes and again a little more in the sunny south.

  • Steven Roy23/12/2011 at 16:36

    Today you can see the ISS and Soyuz flying closely together @4:46pm in the UK for 4 minutes and again at 6: 21pm for 2 minutes if you are in the UK. The Soyuz docks before they can be seen tomorrow so this is the only chance to see them separately together.

    For the rest of theworld choose your country from the pull down menu on the left column and follow the instructions

    http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/index.html

  • Steven Roy23/12/2011 at 16:56

    Went out to see the ISS and only saw Jupiter and clouds where the ISS was.

  • Pat W24/12/2011 at 17:23

    Went out to see the ISS and only saw Jupiter and clouds where the ISS was.

    I keep missing it so I made a point to look today and it is cloudy here. Annoying!

    Top tip: On Twitter, follow @Twisst and one of their bot accounts will tweet you every day if the ISS is visible above you, telling you the time and the direction to look. The only problem I found is sometimes it tweets so far ahead of the event I forget to come back.

  • Bert24/12/2011 at 18:02

    Top tip: On Twitter, follow @Twisst and one of their bot accounts will tweet you every day if the ISS is visible above you, telling you the time and the direction to look. The only problem I found is sometimes it tweets so far ahead of the event I forget to come back.

    I like Heavens Above for ISS and other related sightings. Seeing ISS with another ship catching up to / falling away from is a pretty awesome sight.