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Watch three astronauts launch to the International Space Station this afternoon

A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch three astronauts to the International Space Station this afternoon, bringing the total number of crew on board the orbiting lab to six. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and two Russian cosmonauts, Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchini, are set to take off from Kazakhstan at 5:26PM ET, according to NASA. They'll join NASA's Tim Kopra, the European Space Agency's Tim Peake, and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, who are already on board the ISS.

Williams will rack up 534 cumulative days in space

Today's trio will take the place of the three astronauts who left the station on March 1st, which included One-Year Mission crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko. Those two just spent 340 continuous days on the station, to help NASA better understand how the body reacts to long-term spaceflight. Thanks to that trip, Kelly has spent a total of 520 days in space during his career — the longest cumulative amount of time spent in space by an American astronaut. However, that record won't last long. Williams, who is launching on today's mission, will rack up 534 cumulative days in space by the end of his six-month stay, according to NASA.

Check back here at 4:30PM ET to watch the launch live, and here's a timeline of what to expect for the mission, courtesy of NASA:

March 18th

  • 4:30PM ET: Launch coverage begins.
  • 5:26PM ET: Russian Soyuz rocket launches from Kazakhstan.
  • 10:30PM ET: Coverage of docking sequence begins.
  • 11:11PM ET: Soyuz capsule docks with the ISS.

March 19th

  • 12:30AM ET: Coverage of hatch opening begins.
  • 12:55AM ET: Hatch opens, and astronauts enter the ISS.