This afternoon, a new group of astronauts is set to launch to the International Space Station, taking the place of three crew members who departed the orbiting lab earlier this month. NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, along with Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, are scheduled to take off from Kazakhstan in a Russian Soyuz rocket at 5:17PM ET. About six hours after launch, they’ll rendezvous with the ISS, where they’ll stay for the next five months.
Both Misurkin and Acaba are spaceflight veterans, while this will be the first flight for Vende Hei. The trio will join Expedition 53 commander Randy Bresnik from NASA, cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy, and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency, who are already onboard the station
The new launch comes just weeks after record-breaking astronaut Peggy Whitson left the ISS and landed back on Earth on September 2nd. Thanks to a mission extension, Whitson spent a cumulative 288 days on the station during this last trip. That brought her total time in space to 665 days, which means she now boasts the most flight time of any US astronaut.
NASA’s coverage of today’s launch is set to begin at 4:15PM ET, while coverage of the Soyuz docking will begin around 10:15PM ET. Check back then to watch this mission get off the ground.