This evening, three astronauts will launch to the International Space Station on top of a Russian Soyuz rocket out of Kazakhstan. The crew includes astronauts from three different space agencies: NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Takeoff is scheduled for 9:36PM ET tonight, and the trio but the trio won't arrive at the ISS for a while. For the past three years, most Soyuz flights to the ISS have taken six hours, but this crew is scheduled to dock with the ISS about two days later, early Saturday morning.
The crew will be testing out some upgraded systems on the Soyuz
That's because the crew will be testing out some upgraded systems on the Soyuz, which has been decked out with some new goodies. It’s equipped with new redundant thrusters and electrical motors for the vehicle’s docking probe, according to NASA. The Soyuz also boasts more photovoltaic cells on its solar panels, which will provide added power, and additional shielding against micrometeoroid debris. On top of that, the Soyuz has a new video transmitter for sending back docking video, updated communications capabilities, and a better satellite navigation system.
The three astronauts on board will test out these upgrades as they conduct 34 orbits around Earth in the Soyuz. Then at 12:12AM ET Saturday, July 9th, the Soyuz will dock with the ISS, and its hatch will open at 2:50AM ET. At that point, the incoming trio will join NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin. The newcomers are slated to remain on the ISS until October.
This launch finally marks the return of a female astronaut to the ISS, which has been very male-centric for the past year. The last woman to stay aboard the station was Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency, who lived on the ISS from November 2014 to June 2015. Once Rubins is on board, she will be working on a number of important science experiments and will make history as the first person to sequence DNA in space. She is also a self-professed Battlestar Galactica fan.
Update July 6th 9:41AM ET: The article was updated to include more information about flight time.