Russian space agency Roscosmos’ cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrovnik and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei will launch into the space station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday.
The crew will dock at the station at 7:07 a.m. ET, and the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the station will open around 9 a.m. ET.
This quick trip to the space station, which includes two Earth orbits and about three hours of travel time, is courtesy of the new Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft.
Their arrival will bring the total number of crew on the station to 10 residents.
Space station astronauts prepared for the new crew by installing additional sleep 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 way for the last crew launch from Baikonur.
Ryzhikov, Kud-Sverchkov and Rubins arrived at the Soyuz capsule space station after it launched 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 Poisk docking port, which faces space, in March. . This freed up the port of the Rassvet module 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, who launched United States to the space station in November, will also return after the launch of Crew-2 next month.
This second rotation using 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 space flight for Vande Hei, the third Novitskiy space flight and the first for Dubrovnik.
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 completed four sorties in the space. This time around, Vande Hei and the team will be working on several experiments, including Alzheimer’s disease studies 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 save a seat in a future commercial spacecraft launch in 2023 for a non-NASA space station crew member.
As NASA works with Boeing and SpaceX to ensure the safe transportation of crew to and from the space station using US-based launches, taking a seat on the Soyuz means there will always be at minus one American crew member on the space station.
Their launch comes just three days before the 60th anniversary of Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s launch as the first human into space, as well as the 40th anniversary of the first launch of NASA’s space shuttle.