Russian space agency Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei successfully launched to the space station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday.
The new crew will dock at the station at 7:07 am ET, and the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the station will open around 9 am ET. Docking and arrival will also be broadcast live.
This quick trip to the space station, which includes two orbits of Earth and approximately three hours of travel time, is courtesy of the new Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft.
His arrival will bring the total number of crew members to the station to 10 residents.
Space station astronauts have prepared for the new crew by installing additional sleeping stations and freeing up ports.
Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, along with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, recently moved the Soyuz MS-17 capsule from its port to make room for the latest crew launch from Baikonur.
Ryzhikov, Kud-Sverchkov and Rubins arrived at the space station in the Soyuz capsule after its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in October.
The crew members moved their spacecraft from the Rassvet module, which has an Earth-facing port, and moved it to the space-facing Poisk docking port in March. This freed up the Rassvet module port for the new crew and their Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft.
Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov will return to Earth in the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft on April 17.
Members of the historic NASA-SpaceX Crew-1, including NASA astronauts Victor Glover Jr., Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, which launched from the US. To the space station in November, they will also return after the launch of Crew-2 next month.
This second rotation with the NASA-SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will include NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.
Crew-2, which could launch on April 22, will join Crew-1 on the space station before Crew-1 returns to Earth.
This is the second spaceflight for Vande Hei, the third Novitskiy spaceflight, and the first for Dubrov.
Vande Hei was selected as an astronaut in 2009 and had his first space flight experience on the space station from September 2017 to February 2018. During his 168 days aboard the station, Vande Hei conducted four spacewalks. This time, Vande Hei and the team will work on multiple experiments, including studies on Alzheimer’s disease and portable ultrasound devices.
Vande Hei’s flight on the Soyuz spacecraft is part of a contract with Axiom Space of Houston. In return, NASA will essentially reserve a seat in a future commercial spacecraft launch in 2023 for a non-NASA space station crew member.
While NASA works with Boeing and SpaceX to ensure safe crew transportation to and from the space station using US-based launches, taking a seat on the Soyuz means that there will always be at least one member of the crew. American crew on the space station.
Its launch occurs just three days before the 60th anniversary of the launch of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin as the first human being in space, as well as the 40th anniversary of NASA’s first space shuttle launch.