A Russian Soyuz spacecraft will launch an American astronaut and two cosmonauts to the International Space Station early Friday (April 9) – and you can watch it live online.
The Soyuz capsule with NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hi, Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov is scheduled to launch on top of a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 03.42 EDT (0742 GMT or 12:42 local time) Friday for a quick, three hour ride International Room Station.
You can watch the action live here on Space.com, with permission from NASA, or directly via the space organization. Launch coverage starts at 02.45 EDT (0745 GMT).
Video: Astronaut Mark Vande Hi corrects his last-minute space flight
If all goes according to plan, the trio̵
This mission will be the second spaceflight for Vande Hei, the third for Soyuz Commander Novitskiy and the first for Dubrov.
NASA announced Vande Hei’s commitment to this mission just last month. Normally, crew members on long-term space station missions receive years’ notice, however NASA Fast Waters Hi after the agency’s plans to switch to commercial crewing were complicated by ongoing technical problems with Boeing’s Starliner astronaut taxi, which may delay the vehicle’s first flight with crew until 2022.
(Like Boeing, SpaceX has a contract with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is underway and has already transported two crews to that orbital laboratory.)
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Water Hi had some notice of the flight before the public announcement, he told Space.com in an exclusive interview. “Me preparing for this flight was something we had done as a contingency just if we could get the seat,” he said.
NASA usually buys seats aboard Soyuz. But in this case, NASA and Roscosmos, Russia’s federal space agency, instead agreed to exchange seats – Vande Hei is on Soyuz for an upcoming Roscosmos astronaut on a future commercial crew flight. Flight missions are still being determined, as NASA is preparing the cracks with commercial crew planning, and Vande Hei can thus spend a year rather than the usual six months in space. But it is not yet completely decided.
“Things are changing and … we need to coordinate with the Russians, especially Roscosmos, to find out when we’ll be back,” Vande Hei told Space.com.
His previous spaceflight lasted six months. So Vande Hei said he will look forward to a new “life experience” if given the task of staying high for a year.
The three-person Soyuz MS-18 crew will take part in seven Expedition 64 spaceflights currently in orbit, making it possible one of the largest crews in recent memory. The seven people who were already there arrived with two spaceships last year. A Soyuz brought NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov to the station in October. Then a SpaceX Crew Dragon sent NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker as well as Japan’s Soichi Noguchi to the orbit complex in November.
Friday’s launch takes place three days before the 60th anniversary of the first human spaceflight from the same venue that hosted the historic liftoff. April 12, 1961 became the Soviet Union Yuri Gagarin launched to ground orbit from Baikonur. Russia’s space agency Roscosmos has named the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft Gagarin after the famous cosmonaut.
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