Sergei Volkov

Photo: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center
Photo: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center

Sergei Aleksandrowich Volkov, born April 1, 1973 is the first Russian Cosmonaut in second generation, son to Pilot Cosmonaut Aleksandr Aleksandrowich Volkov who flew to space three times between 1985 and 1992 totaling 391 days spent in orbit – a number Sergei Volkov intends to surpass on his third space flight occurring in 2015/16.

Born in Chuhuiv, Ukrainian SSR, Volkov attended local schools before enrolling in the military, graduating from Tambov Higher Military Aviation School in 1995, specializing in Command Tactical Bombardment Aviation. Serving as a pilot, Volkov was the commander assistant of the air squadron. He logged over 350 hours flying a variety of aircraft, becoming a Class 3 Military Pilot.

His military career was rather short as his selection as a Test Cosmonaut Candidate came in December 1997. Volkov reported to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in January 1998 for two years of basic training and evaluations. He passed general space training with excellent grades and received his qualification as a Test Cosmonaut in December 1999.

Entering the Cosmonaut Corps, Volkov began general training for a mission to the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz TMA spacecraft. In September 2001, Volkov was assigned to the backup crew of ISS Expedition 7, also receiving the commander position in the Soyuz backup crew alongside space veteran Sergei Krikalev and U.S. Astronaut John Phillips. The Columbia accident in February 2003 changed the planning for ISS operations and the three crew members transitioned from a planned Soyuz launch to a planned launch aboard the Shuttle mission STS-114 that, back then, was expected to return to flight in time for their crew rotation. The STS-114 mission program was changed in October 2003 and Volkov, Krikalev and Philips ceased flight training operations.

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Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA

Sergei Volkov transitioned to the prime crew for ISS Expedition 11, training for a launch on STS-121 from February 2004 to January 2015 when he was replaced with Thomas Reiter. Afterwards, Volkov became part of a group of Cosmonauts designated ISS-15/16/17 to make up the crews for these three Expeditions. Training started in August 2005.

Starting in February 2006, Volkov began training as the backup for Marcos Pontes, a spaceflight participant from Brazil who flew on Soyuz TMA-8. Finally, in May 2006, Volkov received his first firm flight assignment for ISS Expedition 17, entering training together with Oleg Kononenko. In June, they participated in the usual water landing survival training, joined by NASA Astronaut Dan Tani. Volkov was appointed as commander of Soyuz TMA-12 completing specialized flight training for Soyuz and ISS operations for the remainder of 2006 and 07, receiving his confirmation as Soyuz commander in November of 2007 for a launch in April 2008.

Blasting off on April 8, 2008 aboard Soyuz TMA-12, Volkov was joined by then rookie space flier Oleg Kononenko and spaceflight participant Yi So-Yeon flying as part of the Korean Astronaut Program. After a smooth ride into orbit, the crew was set for a two-day trip to the Space Station that went without an issue, allowing them to be welcomed aboard the Space Station by the resident crew of Peggy Whitson, Yuri Malenchenko and Garret Reisman. The team participated in a one-week handover before Whitson, Malenchenko and Yi headed home for a soft landing, leaving Expedition 17 commander Volkov and Flight Engineers Kononenko and Reisman on ISS – making Volkov the youngest person to command the Space Station.

Expedition 17 was dedicated to the continued effort of the transition of ISS from its assembly sequence to an operational science laboratory supporting a crew of six. Much of the crew’s time during the initial weeks of the mission was dedicated to the first Automated Transfer Vehicle that had arrived early in April and needed to be unpacked. Also, the crew completed a Soyuz relocation and oversaw the arrival of the Progress M-64 spacecraft in mid-May delivering 2.1 metric tons of supplies to the Station.

On May 31, 2008, Space Shuttle Discovery blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center as part of mission STS-124, carrying the Japanese Kibo module to the International Space Station that was robotically installed on the Node 2 module of the Station. The outfitting of the module’s exterior was completed as part of three EVAs performed by Ron Garan and Mike Fossum who also completed a number of other reconfiguration and outfitting tasks on the US Segment. STS-124 also served as a crew rotation flight, taking home Garret Reisman and bringing Greg Chamitoff to the Station for his long-duration mission.

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Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA

On July 10, Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko ventured outside the Space Station as part of an EVA to inspect Soyuz TMA-12 after Soyuz TMA-10 and TMA-11 encountered problems during the separation of the modules just before re-entry to landing leading to descent completed in ballistic mode. As part of the spacewalk, a pyrotechnic bolt used in the separation sequence was removed for inspection on the ground. The EVA lasted for 6 hours and 18 minutes.

Volkov and Kononenko conducted a second EVA on July 15 that lasted 5 hours and 54 minutes and was dedicated to the installation of the Vsplesk experiment, the removal of a Biorisk experiment container and the outfitting of the Zvezda module for the arrival of the Poisk module in 2009.

ATV Jules Verne departed the Space Station on September 5 after a very successful debut mission of the Automated Transfer Vehicle. Progress M-65 took ATV’s place on the aft docking port of Zvezda on September 12 to keep up a steady chain of supplies to the Space Station.

The next ISS crew launched on October 12, 2008 and arrived at the Station two days later to allow Kononenko, Volkov and Space Tourist Richard Garriot who arrived with Soyuz TMA-13 to depart the Station overnight on October 23. During their long-duration mission, Volkov and Kononenko logged 198 days and 16 hours in space.

Returning from his first trip into space, Sergei Volkov re-joined general ISS training and support of ongoing mission operations. In the first half of 2009, Volkov was assigned to ISS Expedition 28/29 and with that also becoming a part of the 26/27 backup crew. Volkov would again function as Soyuz commander, this time on the upgraded TMA-M variant, requiring him to go through recertification for the newer ‘digital Soyuz.’

Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA

In late 2009, Volkov entered specific flight training with his crew mates Mike Fossum of NASA and Satoshi Furukawa of JAXA. In January and February 2010, the crew went through winter survival training in a forest near Moscow to prepare for the unlikely event of a Soyuz emergency landing in harsh winter conditions. Sergei Volkov received his qualification as a Cosmonaut in April and in September he, in his role as Soyuz TMA-01M backup commander, completed Soyuz training examinations with Oleg Kononenko and Ron Garan who were assigned to the backup crew with him, breaking out of the usual backup crew scheme due to the additional requirements for the TMA-M spacecraft. In September, the backup crew stood by during the Soyuz TMA-01M launch campaign but no backup crew member was required.

Heading back to training with his prime crew, Volkov completed the last flight-specific training sessions in the space centers around the world before the crew joined at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in the final weeks leading up to liftoff. They concluded training with the usual exams in Soyuz and ISS operations, passing with excellent results and being cleared for liftoff on June 7, 2011.

Heading into space aboard Soyuz TMA-02M, Volkov, Fossum and Furukawa had a smooth ride into orbit and to ISS, arriving two days after launch to meet their colleagues Andrei Borisenko, Aleksandr Samokutyaev and Ron Garan who had already been on ISS for three months.

Heading into Expedition 28, the crew supported the departure of the second Automated Transfer Vehicle and the arrival of the Progress M-11M spacecraft before greeting Space Shuttle Atlantis, making the final ever Space Shuttle mission. STS-135 stayed at ISS for nine days, delivering a bulk of internal cargo items via the MPLM Rafaello. The mission featured one EVA performed by Garan and Fossum.

In August 2011, Sergei Volkov and Aleksandr Samokutyaev performed a 6-hour 23-minute spacewalk completing a variety of tasks on the exterior of the Russian segment. Tasks performed by the crew included the release of a small satellite, the installation of the Laser Communications Equipment, the installation of a biological exposure payload and the removal of a KURS antenna from the Poisk Module. The main task of the EVA, the relocation of the Strela 1 cargo boom, had to be deferred due to time limitations.

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Samokutyaev, Borisenko and Garan bid farewell on September 16, safely returning to Earth and leaving the Soyuz TMA-02M crew on ISS to await the arrival of the second half of the Expedition 29 crew. Due to an earlier failure of the trusted Soyuz rocket when launching a Progress cargo craft, the next crew’s liftoff date was pushed by two months, leaving ISS short staffed and giving the three crew members plenty of work to keep up with ongoing maintenance operations and a busy science schedule.

Anton Shkaplerov, Anatoli Ivanishin and Dan Burbank launched aboard their Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft on November 14, 2011 and arrived aboard ISS two days later. The combined crew only had one week of handover time due to the delayed launch of Soyuz TMA-22 before Soyuz TMA-02M departed the Station and left the new crew alone on ISS for a period of four weeks due to the shaken Soyuz schedule.

Returning to Earth, the crew could look back at a mission of 167 days, 6 hours and 12 minutes.

Sergei Volkov re-entered the normal flight support and training operations after going through post-flight medicals and other science-related activities as well as debriefing with the various support teams taking until several weeks after a mission.

Photo: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center
Photo: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center

In December 2012, Volkov was presented as the backup of Mikhail Kornienko who was training for the first one-year Expedition to the International Space Station together with Scott Kelly. Since he was not required in his backup role, Volkov transitioned to its primary task of serving a standard half-year tour on ISS and providing the two one-year crew members with a ride back to Earth since a Soyuz switchout is required for a one-year mission duration given the 215-day in-orbit lifetime limit for the spacecraft.

Therefore, it was decided to have Volkov launch halfway through the one-year flight of Kornienko and Kelly.

Aboard his Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft will be two ISS Visiting Crew Members who will complete a mission of just ten days – Andreas Mogensen who will participate in a science flight by the European Space Agency, and Aidyn Aimbetov of the Kazakh Space Agency who is replacing Space Adventures tourist Sarah Brightman after she withdrew from training in May 2015.

Once aboard ISS, Kelly and Kornienko will switch Kazbek seat liners with Mogensen and Aimbetov who are set to return aboard Soyuz TMA-16M with spaceflight record holder Gennady Padalka.

Sergei Volkov will work on ISS as part of Expedition 45 and 46 as a Flight Engineer, supporting various scientific activities and maintenance aboard the Russian Segment.

In total, Volkov logged 365 days, 22 hours and 33 minutes in space on his two long-duration missions, having performed three spacewalks for a total of 18 hours and 35 minutes.

Sergei Volkov is married and in his family there are two children. In his free time, he enjoys sports and games, visiting museums and reading.