MS-21 | Soyuz 2.1a

Lift Off Time
(Subject to change)
March 18, 2022 – 15:55 UTC
Mission Name
MS-21, crewed flight to the International Space Station (ISS)
Launch Provider
(What rocket company is launching it?)
ROSCOSMOS
Customer
(Who’s paying for this?)
ROSCOSMOS
Rocket
Soyuz 2.1a
Launch Location
Launch Complex 31/6, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Payload mass
7,080 kg (15,610 Ib) (for the whole spacecraft)
Where is the spacecraft going?
It will rendezvous with the ISS, ~400 km low Earth orbit (LEO) at a 51.66° inclination
Will they be attempting to recover the first stage?
No, this is not a capability of Soyuz
Where will the first stage land?
The boosters will crash into the steppes of Kazakhstan
Will they be attempting to recover the fairings?
No, this is not a capability of Soyuz
Are these fairings new?
Yes
How’s the weather looking?
TBD
This will be the:
– 1st crewed launch of 2022
– 60th Soyuz 2.1a launch 
-149th flight of a crewed Soyuz spacecraft
– 17th orbital launch attempt of 2022
Where to watch
If available, an official livestream will be listed here

What Does All This Mean?

ROSCOSMOS are set to launch Soyuz MS-21 to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 18, 2022. This launch will see three new crew members join the station, cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov. ROSCOSMOS will launch this mission using a Soyuz MS spacecraft atop a Soyuz 2.1a launch vehicle, from Launch Complex 31/6, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The mission is expected to last for a little over 6 months, with the crew scheduled to return to Earth on September 29, 2022.

ms-21 mission patch
Soyuz MS-21 mission patch. (Credit: ROSCOSMOS)

Who Is On Soyuz MS-21?

Unlike previous Soyuz crewed launches to the ISS, which have had astronauts from multiple countries occupy a seat, this launch will be the first mission to the ISS comprised of three cosmonauts. The crew, which was named in May 2021, is Oleg Artemyev (Commander), Denis Matveev (Flight Engineer 1), and Sergey Korsakov (Flight Engineer 2). The MS-21 backup crew is made up of Sergey Prokopyev (Commander), Anna Kikina (Flight Engineer 1), and Dmitriy Petelin (Flight Engineer 2).

Oleg Artemyev

Commander: Oleg Artemyev

MS-21 Commander Oleg Artemyev was born in 1970. Artemyev was selected for cosmonaut training in 2003. Before his first space flight Artemyev served as a crew member for the 15-day and 105-day precursor studies of the MARS-500 program, which he did between 2007 and 2009. This was a psychosocial isolation experiment done in preparation fir future crewed spaceflights to Mars.

Artemyev first flew to space in 2014 as a member of Expedition 39/40 to the ISS. Artemyev then flew for a second time for the Expedition 55/56 mission in 2018. Soyuz MS-21 marks Artemyev’s third journey to space.

Denis Matveev

Flight Engineer 1: Denis Matveev

Cosmonaut Denis Matveev was born in 1983. He graduated from Bauman Moscow State Technical University in 2006, with a degree in Computing and Networks. Following this, Matveev worked as a research assistant at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.

Matveev was selected for cosmonaut training in 2010, and was appointed as a test cosmonaut in 2012. The Soyuz MS-21 mission will be Matveev’s first journey to space.

Sergey Korsakov

Flight Engineer 2: Sergey Korsakov

Sergey Korsakov is a Russian cosmonaut, born in 1984. Just like his crew mate Denis Matveev, Korsakov also graduated from the Bauman Moscow State Technical University in 2006, but this time with a degree in rocketry.

Korsakov was selected for cosmonaut training in 2012, and was then appointed as a test cosmonaut in 2014. Like Matveev, the Soyuz MS-21 mission will also be Korsakov’s first space flight.

Soyuz MS-21 Mission’s Profile

Approximate Timeline (Based On The Soyuz MS-18 Mission)

Hrs:Min:Sec
From Lift-Off
Events
– 00:00:15Engine start sequence
00:00:00Lift-Off
+ 00:01:53Escape tower jettison
+ 00:01:58First stage separation
+ 00:02:33Fairing jettison
+ 00:04:47Second stage separation
+ 00:04:55Tail section separation
+ 00:08:46Third stage main engine cutoff
+ 00:08:49Soyuz MS separation

What Is Soyuz 2.1a?

ROSCOSMOS’s Soyuz is a multi-use medium-lift launch vehicle that was introduced in far 1966 and since then has been the workhorse of the Soviet/Russian space program. It is capable to launch civilian and military satellites, as well as cargo and crewed missions to the ISS. Over the decades, several variants of the Soyuz rocket have been developed. Soyuz 2.1a is one of its latest iterations that belongs to the Soyuz-2 rocket family.

Soyuz MS-19
Soyuz 2.1a is starting its Soyuz MS-19 mission. (Credit: ROSCOSMOS)

The rocket consists of three stages, all of them are expendable. When launching to the ISS, Soyuz-2 can be flown with either a Progress capsule or a Soyuz spacecraft. On the Soyuz MS-21 mission, the Soyuz MS spacecraft will be used.

Soyuz 2.1a is about 46.3 meters (152 ft) in height and 2.95 meters (9 feet) in diameter. The vehicle’s total lift-off mass is approximately 312,000 kg (688,000 lb). The rocket’s payload lift capacity to low-Earth orbit (LEO) is between 6,600 and 7,400 kg depending on the launch site.

Stages

First StageSecond StageThird Stage
Engine 4 RD-107ARD-108ARD-0110
Total Thrust 840 kN (188,720 lbf),
sea level
1,020 kN (229,290 lbf),
vacuum
792 kN (178,140 lbf),
sea level
922 kN (207,240 lbf),
vacuum
298 kN (67,000 lbf),
vacuum
Specific Impulse (ISP)263 s, sea level
320 s, vacuum
258 s, sea level
321 s, vacuum
326 s, vacuum

Side Boosters

The first stage of the Soyuz 2.1a rocket is composed of four side boosters that are powered by RD-107A engines. Each one of the boosters has a conical shape and a dry weight of 3,784 kg. It is approximately 19.6 meters in length, with a diameter of 2.7 meters. Each side booster has two vernier thrusters that are used for flight control.

The RD-107A engine runs on rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) and liquid oxygen (LOx). The propellants are stored in the pressurized aluminum alloy tanks, the kerosene tank is located in the cylindrical part of the booster, and the LOx one is in the conical section. Each one of those engines has four combustion chambers and together they are capable of producing a thrust of 840 kN at sea level and 1,020 kN in a vacuum.

"Korolev cross", Progress MS-16 mission, Soyuz 2.1a
“Korolev cross” seen during Stage I separation on the Progress MS-16 mission. (Credit: ROSCOSMOS’s livestream)

Perhaps, the most spectacular moment of the Soyuz-2 rocket’s launch is the separation of the first stage. It happens approximately two minutes after the launch. The boosters perform a pattern, known as the “Korolev cross” (named after Sergei Korolev, a very important figure of the USSR space program and history).

Second And Third Stages

The center core stage is powered by a single RD-108A engine, and the upper stage is fitted with a single RD-0110 engine. Both of these engines run on rocket-grade kerosene and LOx and have four combustion chambers. The second stage is 27.10 meters long, with a diameter of 2.95 meters, and a dry mass of 6,545 kg. It has four vernier thrusters for three-axis flight control.

The third stage of a Soyuz-2 rocket has a height of 6.7 meters, a diameter of 2.7 meters, and a dry mass of 2,355 kg. One interesting thing about the engine on this stage is that it starts its ignition sequence prior to stage separation. This process is called “hot fire staging”.

Soyuz MS Spacecraft

The Soyuz MS spacecraft is the latest version of Russia’s long-standing three-person spacecraft. Soyuz capsules first flew in the 1960s. The spacecraft’s external appearance is largely unchanged over this time. However, the internal systems and capabilities have been upgraded many times.

Soyuz MS spacecraft
The Soyuz MS spacecraft. (Credit: RKK Energia/ ROSCOSMOS)

The Soyuz MS variant is one of the versions from the fourth generation of this spacecraft. Its first flight was in 2006. Soyuz consists of three sections:

  • the orbital module
  • the descent module
  • the service module

The Orbital Module

This is the forward section of the spacecraft, the part that docks to the ISS. It is the part of the spacecraft where the crew will spend most of their time on orbit. It has more living room than the descent module. On the Progress uncrewed resupply missions, this is replaced by a cargo module.

The Descent Module

This is the middle section of the spacecraft. It is the only part that returns intact to land on Earth. This is where the crew will sit during the launch and the reentry. They will be wearing spacesuits in case of capsule depressurization. There is very little room for the crew of three in this module. On the Progress uncrewed resupply missions, this is replaced by a refueling module that can transfer fuel into the Russian segment. This can then be used by thrusters on the ISS to boost its orbit.

Soyuz descent module, inside
Inside the descent module. (Credit: NASA)

The Service Module

This is the aft (rear) section of the spacecraft. It provides the main engine used for manoeuvring on orbit and the thrusters for fine control during docking and departure. Also, it also contains the life support system for environmental control of the rest of the spacecraft. In addition, it also supports the solar panels and various radio communication systems.

Kurs-NA Automatic Docking System

Like the Soyuz spacecraft, Progress MS is equipped with a Kurs-NA automatic docking system that was first tested on the Progress M-15M mission in July 2012. Compared to its ancestor, Kurs-A, the new system has only one AO-753A rendezvous antenna. Kurs-A had five (two 2AO-VKA and three AKR-VKA) of them. This antenna broadcasts radar pulses that are needed to determine the altitude and relative position of the spacecraft to the ISS. Moreover, Kurs-NA uses less power than Kurs-A.

Sergey Ryzhikov, TORU system
Expedition 64 Commander Sergey Ryzhikov practices using the tele-robotically operated rendezvous unit (TORU). (Credit: NASA)

In addition, the Soyuz spacecraft can be docked to the ISS manually by the docking system called the Tele-Robotically Operated Rendezvous unit (TORU). This manual system serves as a backup to Kurs-NA in emergency situations and is located inside the Zvezda service module.

Rocket section adapted from Mariia Kiseleva

3 comments
  1. Thanks Claire, I love reading your everyday astronaut stuff. As a budding Science teacher it is always good to have your writing close by for a class change up. Will the conflict in Ukraine have any impact on the ISS?

  2. Do you believe there is any Risk sending Soyuz to the ISS while we are at War with Russia ?

    1. The only country at war with Russia is Ukraine at the moment. But no, there aren’t any risks outside of the ones you always have docking two spacecraft in space. They have people on the ISS currently and on this mission so they wont do anything to intentionally harm it.

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