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Soyuz TM-20
Part of Mir
Mir against Space
Mir against Space
The Mir station seen against space during one of the Shuttle-Mir missions.
Credit: NASA
Mir Expedition EO-17. During mission crew boarded Soyuz and then redocked with Mir in a test of the station's Kurs system.

AKA: Mir EO-17;Soyuz TM-20 (Kondakova, Viktorenko);Vityaz (Knight). Launched: 1994-10-03. Returned: 1995-03-22. Number crew: 2 . Duration: 169.22 days.

Docked at the Mir forward port at 00:28 on 1994 October 6. The Mir crew of Viktorenko, Kondakova and Polyakov boarded Soyuz TM-20 on January 11, and undocked from Mir's front port at 09:00 GMT. The spacecraft withdrew to about two hundred meters from Mir and then redocked in a test of the automatic Kurs system, which had failed in Progress M-24's attempted docking. Redocking came at 09:25 GMT. Soyuz TM-20 landed 22 km northeast of Arkalyk in Kazakhstan at 04:04 GMT on March 22, 1995.

Narrative (adapted from D S F Portree's Mir Hardware Heritage, NASA RP-1357, 1995)

On 6 October, 1994, Mir Principal Expedition 17 (Alexandr Viktorenko and Yelena Kondakova) arrived at Mir together with ESA astronaut Ulf Merbold aboard Soyuz TM-20, Valeri Polyakov was again to remain aboard on his record duration flight. During final approach, Soyuz TM-20 yawed unexpectedly. He assumed manual control and completed docking without incident. Kondakova, the mission rookie, was the third Russian female cosmonaut and the first female to take part in a long duration flight. Ulf Merbold was a physicist and veteran of two U.S. Space Shuttle missions. The month-long Euromir 94 experiment program was considered a precursor to the ESA Columbus module planned for the joint U.S.-Russia-ESA-Japan-Canada space station. Merbold's program was planned rapidly, final agreement between ESA and Russian having been concluded in November 1992. It was also constrained by funding limitations—ESA budgeted only about $60 million for Euromir 94. Because of these limitations, Merbold relied heavily on equipment left on Mir by earlier French, Austrian, and German visitors to the station, as well as the Czech-built CSK-1 materials processing furnace. He also used equipment delivered by Progress M-24 and Soyuz TM-20. Merbold's experiment program included 23 life sciences, 4 materials sciences, and 3 technology experiments.

On October 11 the six cosmonauts aboard Mir were unable to activate a video camera and TV lights while recharging Soyuz TM-20's batteries. A short circuit had disabled the computer which guided Mir's solar arrays, forcing the station to drain its batteries. The cosmonauts used reaction control thrusters on the Soyuz TM-spacecraft docked to the station to orient it so its solar arrays would point toward the Sun, and switched on a backup computer. Normal conditions were restored by October 15. According to Yuri Antoshechkin, Deputy Flight Director for Mir Systems, speaking in December at JSC, the shortage afflicted only the Mir core module. Antoshechkin stated through an interpreter that unspecified minor crew error, coupled with a long period out of contact with monitors in the TsUP (caused by Altair/SR relay satellite "prophylactic work") during a crew sleep period, contributed to the base block discharging its batteries unnoticed, and that an automatic alarm awakened the crew when the power shortage reached a critical level.

Ground teams rescheduled Merbold's experiments to allow completion of those interrupted by the power problems, and moved experiments using large amounts of electricity to the end of Merbold's stay. In addition, the Czech-built CSK-1 furnace malfunctioned, forcing postponement of five of Merbold's experiments until after his return to Earth.

On November 3 Malenchenko, Musabayev, and Merbold undocked in Soyuz TM-19 and withdrew to a distance of 190 m. They then activated its Kurs system, which successfully guided the spacecraft to an automatic docking with Mir's aft port. The cosmonauts then went back into Mir. The test was a response to the Progress M-24 docking problems. If it had failed, the Soyuz TM-19 cosmonauts would have made an emergency return to Earth.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on an 11-day atmospheric research mission on November 3. French astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy was aboard as a mission specialist. In remarks made after Atlantis' launch, ESA Director-General Jean- Marie Luton stated that there was "a French astronaut flying on an American Space Shuttle to perform experiments from U.S., French, German, and Belgian scientists....Meanwhile, on Russia's Mir space station, ESA astronaut Ulf Merbold is completing a month-long mission, the longest in European spaceflight. By the end of the decade, this level of cooperation will be routine aboard the international space station."

On November 4 Merbold again squeezed into the Soyuz- TM 19 descent module, together with the EO-16 crew of Malenchenko and Musabayev, and 16 kg of the life sciences samples he collected during his stay on the station. Additional samples -- including materials processing samples to be produced when the Principal Expedition 17 cosmonauts carry out the experiments Merbold was to have conducted during his stay -- were to be returned to Earth by Space Shuttle Atlantis in mid-1995. Soyuz TM-19 undocking, deorbit burn, reentry, and landing occurred without significant incident.

On November 13 Progress M-25 arrived. Viktorenko stood by at the remote control panel on Mir during approach, but manual intervention was unnecessary. Polyakov, veteran of the Progress M-24 problems, called Progress M-25 "an ideal freighter." Among other cargoes, Progress M-25 delivered replacement parts for the failed CSK-1 materials processing furnace. 50,000 orbits. On November 18 the Mir base block completed its 50,000th orbit of the Earth, having covered about 1.9 billion km since launch on February 20, 1986.

More at: Soyuz TM-20.

Family: Manned spaceflight. People: Kondakova, Viktorenko. Spacecraft: Soyuz TM.
Photo Gallery

Mir EO-17Mir EO-17
Credit: www.spacefacts.de

Mir EO-17Mir EO-17
Credit: www.spacefacts.de

1994 October 3 - . 22:42 GMT - . Launch Site: Baikonur. Launch Complex: Baikonur LC1. LV Family: R-7. Launch Vehicle: Soyuz-U2.
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1994 November 11 - . 07:21 GMT - . Launch Site: Baikonur. Launch Complex: Baikonur LC1. LV Family: R-7. Launch Vehicle: Soyuz-U-PVB.
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1995 February 3 - . 05:22 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC39B. Launch Platform: MLP2. LV Family: Shuttle. Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle.
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1995 February 15 - . 16:48 GMT - . Launch Site: Baikonur. Launch Complex: Baikonur LC1. LV Family: R-7. Launch Vehicle: Soyuz-U-PVB.
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1995 March 14 - . 06:11 GMT - . Launch Site: Baikonur. Launch Complex: Baikonur LC1. LV Family: R-7. Launch Vehicle: Soyuz-U2.
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