Soyuz MS-04 docked – launch, flight and docking during same day !

Soyuz MS-04 mission finished after only few hours - Fyodor Yurchikhin (Roscosmos) and Jack Fischer (NASA) spent really short time inside Soyuz spacecraft before it docked to International Space Station's Poisk module. Expedition 51 started !

This mission was unique basically because docking was performed few hours after start and also because of fact, that number of crew members inside Soyuz was limited to 2. Veteran Fyodor Yurchikhin took his commander's seat in the center of the vehicle, Jack Fischer as flight engineer took place on the left side of commander. For Yurchikhin it will be fourth flight in his career, for Jack Fischer MS-04 mission will be space debut. Third seat remained empty due the Roscosmos budget limitations for ISS missions in 2017.

As usual Soyuz was rolled out and delivered to launch pad 1 at Baikonur on railed platform on April 17, 2017. Launch preparations begun today at night; launch hour was set for 07:13 UTC. At around 03:30 UTC fueling process started; two hours later both crew members entered capsule of Soyuz and took their seats. They begun standard procedure covering tests of vehicle's subsystems, check their suits and prepare for launch. At 06:42 UTC two towers were retracted to expose Soyuz-FG. Three minutes later emergency rescue system was armed. At 06: 54 UTC Yurchikhin and Fischer check if their Sokol suits are correctly sealed and close visors of their helmets.

At 07:13 UTC rocket started to rise over Launch Pad 1. Long for 49.5 m rocket kept its RD-107 engines to operate with full thrust. Two minutes and ten seconds later all four engines were cut off and were jettisoned, just like the tower of rescue system which separated at T+3'. Core engine RD-108A was working nominally providing over 790 kN of thrust and burning same propellant as boosters - kerosene and liquid oxygen. AtT+5' on the altitude of 170 km core stage was cut off. After few seconds it separated letting upper stage to start its RD-0110 engine and begun its flight to ISS orbit. After nine minutes engine was cut off and Soyuz separated to continue flight planned for six hours. Soyuz managed to deploy solar arrays correctly and reported its status to ground control station after another twenty minutes.

Six hours later Soyuz with Fyodor Yurchikhin (Roscosmos) and Jack Fischer (NASA) were ready to enter last phase of this part of mission. At 12:40 Soyuz reached distance of 5600 m from ISS and was still closing. It started  flyaround to get to the correct position for docking after reaching 350 m distance at 12:57 UTC. Automatic maneuvers were performed without engaging crew members. During next 15 minutes spacecraft reduced distance to International Space Station to 23 meters. Finally at 13:18 UTC it docked to poisk module on altitude of  402 km over North Atlantic. Twelve minutes later all latches and locks were closed and connection between poisk and Soyuz was pressurized. After two hours at 15:25 UTC hatches were opened from both sites Fyodor Yurchikhin and Jack Fischer joined commander Peggy Whitson of NASA, Oleg Novitskiy (Roscosmos) and Thomas Pesquet (ESA).