The snag-hit Moscow-backed spacecraft, which was carrying two Russians cosmonauts and a US astronaut returned back successfully on Thursday to the International Space Station (ISS) after an unprecedented two-day delay.
The Soyuz TMA-12M carrying NASA astronaut Steve Swanson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev docked at 3:53 am Moscow time on Thursday (March 27), Russia’s mission control said.
Hours after the successful docking, Russian state media reported that the head of Moscow’s mission control, Viktor Ivanov, had been sacked. Ccording to the sources, his dismissal was not connected to the technical glitch that forced the Soyuz’s crew to spend an extra two days in orbit before docking with ISS.
When asked about the reason behind the glitch, NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean, “NASA and Russian ground controllers are still investigating the exact cause of the docking delay”.
The Soyuz TMA-12M capsule was launched into space atop a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan at 5:17 p.m. EDT (2117 March 26 GMT) on Tuesday.
The Soyuz TMA-12M vehicle was scheduled to dock with the space laboratory about six hours after launch. But it missed an automatic engine burn that prevented the spacecraft from making the expedited docking.
According to preliminary reports, officials think the burn was skipped because the Soyuz vehicle wasn’t in the correct orientation, or attitude, at the time.
Kenny Todd, mission operations integration manager for the space station, said in a NASA TV webcast, “Based on what we’re hearing from our Russian colleagues, it looks like that burn did not execute because they weren’t able through their normal systems checks to confirm the attitude of the vehicle was in its proper condition.”